The Clingy Darlings Struggle


Can’t let her go. #thestruggle

So clinginess in writing is supposed to be bad. You know, writers that won’t let things go, won’t make revisions, can’t part with certain passages, that stuff. The whole killing your darlings thing.

I think that’s legit, but a little clinginess can have its uses, and when it comes to writing, clinginess itself isn’t fundamentally bad, because it has to have strong feelings driving it.

Long ago I wrote a serial for fun. It quickly became a more serious project, and I eventually transitioned it into novels, which resulted in an awkward and unpleasant publishing situation that we’re not getting into – but this small project became a big project.

How big? Irresponsibly big. My disorganized handling of that series is a good guide of how not to go about these things.

I wrote serials, sequels, prequels, novellas, short stories, and almost a dozen full-length novels. The result was a gargantuan and unwieldy continuity with a very inconsistent level of quality. No one could keep it straight; the order of the books and stories and how they tied together was just out of control. You had to do post grad work just to make sense of it.

It was and is a huge mess. In a perfect world I could just learn from my mistakes and try not to repeat them, but there’s a problem: I’m attached. I believe, maybe wrongly, that despite all its problems, there’s a good story in there trying to get out.
So begins the struggle.

All of this material together adds up to well over a million words. Even after I cut, chop, slice, and throw away entire books and short novels, there’s still quite a bit that remains – and most of that remainder needs a lot of work. Some of these novels need to be largely re-written. Others need very delicate surgery.

New books will have to be written too. Existing books will have to be butchered and destroyed.

It’s a lot of work, but it’s not a chore. It’s also optional. It’s not like I don’t have other things to do. This is where clinginess can be helpful. It’s not that I’m afraid to make changes or let things go – everything’s changing, and an enormous amount of content has to go.

But I’m clinging to the thing as a whole.

This is a second chance; I get to re-write history, and try to make this stuff as good as it can be. It’ll never be my best, and it may never be fit for the major leagues, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth it.

Still, the really smart move would be to walk away and put my time and effort into more manageable, marketable projects. The businessman in me wants to cut my losses, but it’s not going to happen because I have strong feelings about this stuff.

And I have folders full of half-finished, stalled out manuscripts, projects that I didn’t have strong feelings about. I’m all for killing darlings, but a little clinginess in the right places isn’t the worst thing that can happen to you. The feelings have to be there. If they aren’t, what’s the point?