Swoon Author Kristen Orlando's Editing Update: The Darling-Killing Is Worth It
When I was editing the first book in the Black Angel Chronicles series, I was prepared to “kill my darlings.” A rewrite had
gone way too long and I needed to cut about 20,000 words to tighten up the plot.
It was hard cutting sentences, paragraphs and even whole scenes that I had
polished and shined and loved. But when
it came time to edit You Won't Know I'm Gone, I think I almost cried when I had to highlight 120 Microsoft Word pages and hit the big old delete button.
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After meeting with the editorial team in New York City, we came to the conclusion that the book was reading way too slow. The first draft of You Won't Know I'm Gone picked up just days after the heartbreaking conclusion of You Don't Know My Name. While there was a lot of emotion at the beginning of the book, it took tens of thousands of words to get to the real action. During my October meeting in the Flatiron building (it’s still SO SURREAL and amazing to meet with the super talented Swoon team there), my amazing editor Kat Brzozowski and the brilliant Lauren Scobell (director of Swoon Reads) proposed a solution: what if the book time jumped six months? I think I sat there speechless (with a mouthful of donut) for a good 30 seconds. All those words! All that hard work! Erased like they never even happened! But you know what? I knew they were 100% right. Time jumping got us to the action and meat of the book so much faster. With the first draft, the pace was so slow that I felt like I was treading water with my characters. The reader needed to see them swim (or in this case, kick ass like the gifted spies they are). So as painful as it was, I went home, created a new outline and said goodbye to pages and pages of darlings.
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When I sat down to write a new chapter or scene, I asked myself the same question: How does this advance the plot? I had to make sure that every new chapter, even every new paragraph, had a purpose and helped to move the story along or gave the reader insight into Reagan’s emotional internal struggle.
The edit on You Won't Know I'm Gone came at a super crazy time. I was rewriting at all hours of the day while being super pregnant, doing major prep for You Don't Know My Name’s release (thank you to my publicist Kelsey Marrujo for landing me so many awesome interviews and guest blogs!), plus it was the holidays with lots of family and friends in town. But after really putting my head down, cranking it out (I think the only day I didn’t write was Christmas day!) and turning the book in on January 2nd, I got an email from Kat saying “This is great. Couple minor changes and then on to copy edits.” I squealed and did a very pregnant happy dance!
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I killed a lot of darlings during this edit. Characters I loved, dialogue I cherished and scenes of internal anguish I poured my soul into. But cutting all those pages and time jumping was exactly what this book needed. I’m so thankful to the team at Swoon for all their hard work and so grateful to have access to their brilliant, creative minds! I love collaborating with these talented people and I’m so elated with the way You Won't Know I'm Gone turned out. I hope that you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!