Lisa Dale Norton
Your Life as Story: Writing Narrative Non Fiction
Lisa Dale Norton
". . . as the story evolved and editing carved away other unnecessary material, these little nuggets stuck around."
I read a lot of client manuscripts and one of the things I notice in material that isn’t ready for an agent, editor, or publication what I call precious darlings. These are the phrases we’ve written—a clever sentence, a natty paragraph, a brilliant metaphor, a stunning description—that in and of themselves are pretty cool. But, they no longer have anything to do with the story at hand. Maybe, once upon a time they fit into an earlier draft, but as the story evolved and editing carved away other unnecessary material, these little nuggets stuck around.
We save them because we love them. We save them because we haven’t grown to the place as writers where we understand that as nice as they may be, they simply do not serve the larger story we are telling. We hope no one will notice they don’t quite fit.
To me, it’s as if they are wearing a neon bathrobe and curlers in their hair.
"Their gut told them something wasn’t right, but . . . well, but . . . I really like it. "
Usually, what I find working with writers is that they saw these precious darling, too. Their gut told them something wasn’t right, but . . . well, but . . . I really like it. Ah, bingo, the precious darling.
My own writing leaped to a new level when I listened to my gut and eliminated precious darlings quickly. I recommend it. The minute you see yourself cutting and pasting that favorite turn-of-thought, that sentence or whole character description—holding your breath and dashing back through old drafts to find that one specially crafted phrase—stop and ask yourself if the material serves the current draft.
Precious darlings do have their place, and it is in their own file where they can live in sweet harmony daily admiring each other’s cleverness.
|About Lisa Dale Norton
Lisa Dale Norton is a regular Authorlink columnist. She is nationally recognized as a writing instructor with a passion for story. Read more about Lisa.
Lisa Dale Norton's new book about memoir, SHIMMERING IMAGES: A HANDY LITTLE GUIDE TO WRITING MEMOIR (St. Martin's Press), is in bookstores now. Lisa is the author of the acclaimed memoir HAWK FLIES ABOVE: JOURNEY TO THE HEART OF THE SANDHILLS, a work combining memoir and nature writing. She teaches for the UCLA Writers' Extension Program and speaks nationally on the process of memoir. She lives in Santa Fe. www.lisadalenorton.com