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Kill Your Darlings…And Save Yourself

(*Warning: Author has the tendency to seek patterns in life and wax philosophical about them.*)  

What is an important part of a satisfying romance? Pacing.

What is a key ingredient in making a story suspenseful and thrilling? Pacing.

What can make or break an author? Pacing. And knowing one’s limits.

Years ago, one of the most valuable lessons I learned as a newbie romantic suspense writer was how to use pacing as an effective tool. I had to kill my darlings—to delete paragraphs, sometimes even pages, of backstory and description that bogged down the story. It wasn’t easy to cut these hard-won sentences. I liked them. I’d nurtured them. But I had to admit, leaving them in the dust increased the power of the story.

Sometimes we have to let go of things that seem important in order to be stronger.

But pacing is also a factor in an author’s career. The pressure to increase the quantity of books can be enormous. But it’s the quality of books that builds readership. How does one pace oneself to achieve maximum potential and still stay sane? That’s been a very real question for me this past year.

On the writers’ loops, blogs and conferences, there appears to be a constant hum of, “You must have a backlist and produce several books a year to keep your readership happy or your career will wither away.” Logically, I know not everyone is producing more than a book a year, or even one book a year. Likely, there are only a few writers who can keep that pace and still keep their lives together and their readers happy with good quality. Today, I’m releasing my fourth book in just under three years, and I still don’t feel like I’m doing enough. (And some days I don’t feel quite sane.) But I’m doing all I can. And I need to stop and recognize that before the joy is gone, or before I burn out.

So I’m killing my darlings and saving myself. What darlings? Those beliefs I harbor that could end up breaking me. It may be time for a new belief system—one that’s framed in a positive way.

  • I can write a book (or less) a year and still be a successful author. The important thing is that I’m living life, and writing when I can.
  • I am on my own path. That author, over there, is on her own path, and those journeys can look different.
  • I give myself permission to simply write new words or edit old ones today, without spending an hour keeping up my social media sites.
  • I can take tonight off to enjoy my family, rather than work.
  • I can be a productive person without being Superwoman.

If it comes down to saving myself (and my health) versus producing more books, I choose myself. I’d rather kill my darling misconceptions than lose myself in the process. Sometimes we have to let go of things that seem important in order to be stronger.

What beliefs (or darlings) do you need to kill off to pace yourself better and stay healthy and sane? Extra points for re-phrasing that belief in a positive way. 

And…to celebrate my release day, I’ll be giving away a digital copy of DARK DEEDS to one non-Ruby commenter, so please share your advice and/or experience below.

Dark Deeds (Mindhunters, Bk 4)

Dark Deeds (Mindhunters, Bk 4)

Dark Deeds Blurb:

Walking away from sexy Detective Diego Sandoval was one of the toughest things security specialist Becca Haney ever had to do. But her past is a direct threat to his future, to the career he’s working so hard to rebuild. Now, with a witness from a horrific case implicating Diego, Becca must decide whether to listen to her head or her heart.

Diego is a big-city lawman used to cracking the hardest cases, but he’ll never understand why Becca ended their passionate affair. When he’s assigned to help keep her safe from a human trafficking ring, he’s determined to stay by her side and learn about the woman behind the passion—scars and all.  

But Becca has another admirer. Known only as “the Fan,” he believes he’s the perfect partner for her—and he’ll kill to prove it. When the stakes are raised in the killer’s deadly game, Diego will be called upon to save lives—including Becca’s.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | Carina Press

AnneMarieBecker-300 Anne Marie has always been fascinated by people—inside and out—which led to degrees in Biology, Chemistry, Psychology, and Counseling.  Her passion for understanding the human race is now satisfied by her roles as mother, wife, daughter, sister, and award-winning author of romantic suspense.  

She writes to reclaim her sanity.

Find ways to connect with Anne Marie at www.AnneMarieBecker.com. Sign up for her newsletter for the latest about her books, special sneak peeks, and giveaways.

40 responses to “Kill Your Darlings…And Save Yourself”

  1. jbrayweber says:

    Great post, Anne-Marie. One I desperately needed right now. Not in the writing respect, but in the writer’s.

    Congratulations on what’s sure to be another great book!

    Jenn!

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  2. Just another reminder for me to slow down. I feel guilty for doing it but I need to focus on all of life in order to create a good story.

    Although, since I’m spending more time on ‘life’, I think the hubby may be regretting me slowing down because I’m finding things at home that need to be cleaned, decluttered, reorganized and freshened (i.e. – Shopping!!)

    Great post Anne Marie.

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  3. Elisa Beatty says:

    Great post, Anne Marie! What you say here reminds me a lot of what we kept saying during the Winter Writing Festival: you need to find a pace that works for YOU.

    It really is crazy that people are being pushed to write multiple books per year. A handful of people can do that and do it well, but even one book per year is a huge accomplishment, especially for people who have day jobs and kids and a need for occasional sleep.

    Congrats on the release!!

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    • “you need to find a pace that works for YOU” – yes, yes, YES! And life seems to pass by so quickly. It’s important to recognize what’s important, and what you want out of your life, before those stages pass by.

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  4. (PUTTING ON MY PARTY HAT AND GRABBING CYBER-BUBBLY)

    Your remarkable insight is one of the reasons I love you, sister. I’ve told a few writer friends over and over not to compare themselves to others because you will kill yourself doing so. No one has your life and all the baggage that goes with it and you don’t have theirs. You especially don’t know what they’re sacrificing and that you’d be willing to do the same.
    (SIGH) Have they listened? Sadly no, and they’re not happy writers.

    I have my goals, short and long term. When I reach them they will mean much more than if they’d been someone else’s dreams.

    Kudos on the great post and Happy Release DAY!!! I’m off to buy my copy of DARK DEEDS.

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    • So eloquently put, Autumn. There’s a saying I learned when I was a counselor: “Stop should-ing all over yourself.” People who think they “should” be doing this or “should” be mimicking that person aren’t usually happy. Comparisons rarely lead to happiness.

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  5. Tamara Hogan says:

    Great post, Anne Marie! I usually have a pretty good handle on defining success on my own terms, and not comparing my journey to others’ – but when I feel a little shaky, it’s almost always because I’ve spent too much time on Twitter.

    All those chirpy, relentlessly positive “I wrote 5000 words today!” and “Who’s up for a #1k1h!” when I’ve never written that many words on the most productive writing day of my LIFE can really clobber my self-esteem if I let it. What a loser I must be! I have to remind myself to take the Twitter humble-brags with a big ol’ grain of salt. When people only post about the positives – and that’s what we do on social media, right? – we can get a really skewed view of the world. You start to think you’re the weirdo for feeling stressed or challenged. And as you so brilliantly say, what a “darling misconception” that is.

    Happy release day, m’dear!

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    • Thanks, Tamara! I was hoping you’d chime in. You always seem to have a great view of what’s right for YOU, and that it’s important to shut out the chatter. I’m glad you pointed out that it’s a struggle, sometimes, to find that right path, and sometimes we diverge from it, but knowing yourself and your own needs is so important to ultimate happiness.

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  6. Rita Henuber says:

    I am who I am. If I want things to be different, I have to change them. One of my favorite sayings is, “If things don’t go your way – change your way.” I am having a ‘change my way day.’ 🙂
    Happy Happy Happy Release Day.

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  7. Vivi Andrews says:

    Happy Release Day, Anne Marie!!! And great post. 🙂 I also fight the urge to compare myself to other writers – though I’m a binge writer so in pace I worry more that I’m working too fast and missing crucial steps that make other authors’ books better. Hurried or methodical – we just can’t win! lol.

    Raising a toast to Dark Deeds!

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    • Aw, thanks, Vivi! I’m here to tell you that even non-binge writers have that worry. LOL Even if I’ve been through a manuscript ten or more times, I feel I’m missing some key thing that would boost my writing to the next level. But we have to move on sometime, right? And hope that the reader makes his/her own leaps and connections in his/her head…

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  8. Janet Walden-West says:

    Purely as a newbie, I guess there is a different emphasis.
    I’ve learned (okay, am learning) that I have the right to sit down and write. How’s that for a mouthful?
    If I only have a few hours in the evening after kids are in bed, dogs fed, etc-the trash doesn’t have to go out right then and the clean laundry won’t combust if it doesn’t get folded until the next day.
    I never treated grad school or the paying job as something to be ashamed of needing time for or to go on the back burner because everyone else’s wants (as opposed to legitimate needs) were more valid.
    Lesson in progress…

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    • Absolutely, Janet! It’s all about what pace/emphasis is right for you.

      I remember I didn’t want to call myself a “writer” for years (years!) because I didn’t feel entitled to that title. I didn’t know at what point I could call myself that. How is one supposed to carve out time for something they don’t even want to put a name to? That’s the dilemma I faced, and once I called myself a writer and showed people it was important by making time for it, things just started happening, and I made so much progress in my career.

      I’m SO excited for you – this is a big, big step toward claiming your happiness.

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    • Fist pump in air! Yes! You get it. (((KUDOS)))

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  9. Kate Parker says:

    I think anyone who is doing motherhood duty and writing is Superwoman! I never could. Of course, when I was raising children and working full time, I could build dust elephants and dust dragons with what piled up on tables and under beds. Now that the kids are grown, it’s my season for writing. And I’ve made the dust dragons my muses.

    Happy release day!

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    • Ah, yes, the dust dragons. We will not speak of those. LOL I’ve grown to like their company.

      It’s definitely a challenge to balance the motherhood, wifehood, and writing, but it’s fun (when it’s not driving me insane). I guess I get bored if I don’t have something to challenge myself. But there’s such a thing as too much challenge, and I’m learning where that line is.

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  10. Kim Law says:

    Brilliant, Anne Marie. I’ve had all these same struggles and questions, but never really thought about it quite like you just put it. In fact, when I about lost my mind a couple months ago, I came away saying, “ok fine, I’m not superwoman. I get it.” But what I didn’t say to myself was…I can be a productive person without being Superwoman.

    That’s very important! Because yes, I can. And I am. Even if I still want to be superwoman :-/

    But yes, healthy and sane is important. That’s what I’m working on now. Thanks for the reminder.

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  11. L. Penelope says:

    Great reminder. Being really clear on my goals and why I’m writing in the first place helps to squelch the urge to compare myself to others when it arises. As long as I’m making progress towards my goals, I can “stay in my lane” and try not to look over my shoulder so often to see what everyone else is doing. It’s hard, but it’s part of the journey.

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    • Right on, L. Penelope! Being clear about goals, aware of your motivation, and prepared for conflict is so helpful to being successful. And hey, if our characters can have a clear G-M-C and growth arc, so can we, right?! But that’s another post (and another chance to wax philosophical)…

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  12. June Love says:

    Congratulations on the release, Anne Marie! The book sounds awesome.

    This topic is an important one. It’s so easy to fall into that comparison trap. Or, that guilt trap. I let go of trying to make every minute of every day about writing. Now, I have a life first and write second. I can still be productive, but I do it on my terms. And, I don’t miss making memories with family and friends. 🙂

    Great post, Anne Marie!

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  13. When I first started killing my darlings years ago, the only way I could do it was to cut and paste them into a separate document to save them.

    I no longer need to do that, so I know I’ve made progress. Unfortunately, it still hurts sometimes.

    Congratulations on the new release, Anne Marie. Your priorities are just as they should be. Wishing you many, many sales.

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  14. This is such a timely article for me! I just decided to walk away from a number of social media outlets because I just couldn’t do it all. The life inside of my computer was becoming more real than the life outside of it. I can’t even begin to explain how FREEING this has been! It was a painful lesson to learn. I beat myself up about it a lot. And then I realized, this is all new to me. Five years ago I didn’t even know what Facebook was (I kept mixing it up with MySpace and calling it Spacebook!)So, yes. I’m going to make mistakes, and that’s okay. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I especially liked, “I am on my own path. That author, over there, is on her own path, and those journeys can look different.” I’ll be sharing this with others!

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  15. Susie Haught says:

    Hi, Anne Marie–
    I love this. Some authors preach write every day no matter what, and I constantly felt unworthy of the title of “author”, and guilty because I was “shirking” my responsibilities as such. Only when I realized that I am my own person did I poo-poo that idea! It’s nearly impossible for me with a full time job, a business, home and family. Week days are toast most of the time, so I spend those days with my family and catching up on the things life dishes up. Weekends are for writing. I’ve learned to pace myself–and I certainly hope my stories echo the skill.

    Great post, and I wish you much success with Dark Deeds. CHEERS!

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