Saturday, 6 October 2012

Killing Your Darlings (What They Don't Tell You)

I've just written eight promising poems from the torn-up remains of my first ever novel (well, the first one I wrote as an adult). It seems right somehow.

The manuscript, in the form it had the most emotional hold over me (then entitled In the Garden of Gethsemane), was rhe second of several incarnations.

The original incarnation was a straight-up vampire novel, albeit with epic themes, with a melodramatic name (To Lie with Demons).

Then it was a literary mash-up of Abrahamic religion, world mythologies, postcolonial theory, ranting prose poetry, Akira, and, erm, vampires.

Then it was a dreamlike fantasy about drugs, which was much better, but very, very different to its last incarnation. That last incarnation ditches the original characters, pretty much, and most of the clunkier elements. With work, it might become something I can work on in the future.

Then one of the characters made it into an aborted NaNoWriMo novel, which was again very different, but also might have legs if I can return to it at a later date.

But that second story I tried to tell, which I worked on for a good six years, was unworkable in that form. It was a bloated, big bastard of a bugger, but I absolutely loved it. I found out a lot about my craft writing that novel. I experimented wildly and had loads of fun. But it was basically several novels, a handful of stories, and a few poems lumped together.

So I murdered it. I chopped it up into three different manuscripts, then left them in cryogenic refrigeration (stored on a harddrive in a zipped folder) for future scientific research. Tonight, like the organs that remain of the titular character in Akira, I exhumed what was left to see the reality of it. And I'm glad I did.

The ranting prophetic style of the more verbose sections worked well for poetry--once trimmed to the bone. The linguistic energy was something I can harness. I've been through only 10% of the book and already pulled together eight poems and the start of a short story. That means there's probably a lot more I can mine.

I think there's a cohesive sequence of gnostic poems I can bring together from the mess. There are also some seeds that can be turned into urban fantasy stories and fairytales.

Lesson of the day: murder your darlings, but use their butchered flesh to make yourself a Frankenstein.

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