Friday, 30 September 2011

And so the darlings die

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

Crash, bash, whack to the floor go the Dead Darlings. The Co-Writer is in butcher’s mode in our editing conference today; she has been in a meeting all morning and is in no mood for nonsense.

‘I might just save some of the quotes,’ I say, pathetically.

‘Trim, trim,’ she says.

There is an interesting thing about the Darlings. They fall into three categories. The first is Sheer Self-Indulgence. This is when you think you are being hysterically witty, but in fact you are the only one laughing. I suffer from a hideous tendency to laugh at my own jokes anyway, so I fall into that first category every time, as if it were a huge elephant trap and I were an elephant with the memory of a goldfish.

The second category is things which are genuinely not bad, and even quite clever or entertaining, but have no place here. These are the hardest to kill. They might be nice turns of phrase, or lovely emblematic paragraphs, but they have been said before, or they are elaborating on a point already well made, or they are shooting off on a tangent too far. I am addicted to tangents; it’s like some kind of genetic defect.

And the third category is a slight misnomer, because it is not really Darlings at all, but actual buggery bollocks, it’s just you are so lost in deadline madness that you cannot see and need someone else to point it out to you.

So I set up a Dead Darlings file, which softens the pain. I am not doing delete, delete, so the agonisingly crafted words fly out into the ether, laughing at my puny plan. I do cut, and paste, so the poor battered things may live to fight another day.

I wrote another 729 words after the editing conference, and then snuck back to the Darlings file like a naughty child into a sweet cupboard. (Is there such a thing as a sweet cupboard? Sorry, frontal cortex really is a car wreck now.)

And here is the thing. Some of it was awful. Torn out of context, the repetitive tropes or flat platitudes stared reproachfully up at me from the page. Then there was some reasonable stuff, but I could see quite well it was extraneous. And then there were some glittery little Saxon hoards, some piles of treasure, and I dusted them off, polished them a little, held them up to the light, and in a terrible act of transgressive defiance, put them back in.

All I can say is it is a bloody good thing the Co-Writer is far too busy to read this blog at the moment.

Here is the really crazy part. The Dead Darlings file is now 7000 words long. Even after that bloody cull, I have still written 99,000 words of book, and I have decided that there must be a culture chapter. I want to put in stuff about Queen Elizabeth I, because a book is not a book without a bit of Virgin Queen.

There is a very real danger that I am now completely out of control.


Two sets of photographs today. The first are from last night, when I was driving back from a village about six miles to our north-east. This is what I got to see on the drive home:

The farmers are finally getting the harvest in, after the cold summer and the dank of the last couple of weeks, which made them despair. But now look:

30 Sept 1-1

I always think they look like great cotton reels:

30 Sept 7

Then there are the wild blue mountains, which roll like the sea:

30 Sept 2-1

30 Sept 3.ORF

To the north, the view is very typical of this county, with its lush farmland and wooded hills behind and coat of many colours look:

30 Sept 4

The road home:

30 Sept 5

30 Sept 6

Coming back to my house from the south, this is what I see:

30 Sept 8

And then there was this fella:

30 Sept 11

Staring right at me, bold as brass:

30 Sept 12

This evening, in the garden, the little sedum cutting really seems to have taken:

30 Sept 12-1

One lone astrantia is putting out a second flowering:

30 Sept 9.ORF

Every day I think the lavender must be over, but it keeps on keeping on:

30 Sept 13

I'm afraid there might be rather a lot of the geraniums, hydrangea and marjoram over the next few days:

30 Sept 14.ORF-1

30 Sept 16.ORF

30 Sept 15.ORF

The pot table:

30 Sept 14.ORF

Pigeon, offering three of her different faces.

Mid-ball happy face:

30 Sept 20

Imperative sniffing the air pose:

30 Sept 19-1

(She does this quite a lot. I always wonder what it is, exactly, that she is scenting. It reminds me very much of her sister.)

I am inscrutable, elegant, and many other adjectives that only dogs can hear:

30 Sept 20.ORF

And the hill, rather faded and mauve behind the increasingly gaudy young horse chestnut:

30 Sept 19

I hope you had a fine Friday.

I have to work early tomorrow, but I am quite seriously considering saying sod it and making myself a very dry martini. There is Smirnoff Black in the freezer. It seems rude not to.


  1. What is that flower, please, between the hydrangea and the pot table?

    Lovely, lovely pictures.

  2. Marnilla - so glad you like the pictures. That dear little purple flower is a marjoram. I have taken it very close up; in fact the flower head itself is small, only about an inch across. It flowers like that all summer, and I use the leaves in my cooking. :)

  3. Love the pictures. Elizabeth I is fascinating, not only in herself but in the amount of literature she (and her daddy) spawned. I love the new profile picture, by the way!

  4. CatherineMarie - how kind you are. I was worried the new picture was a bit poncey, but I was so tired of the old one.

  5. Yes I have a sweetie are clearly more plugged into the masses than you give yourself credit for! I am enjoying this insight into the editing process, if I ever write a book I will revisit the file concept. Lou x

  6. Lou - LOVE the thought of you with the sweetie cupboard. Not sure you should follow my editing process TOO closely; I feel that it is on the crazed side of manic. Wait till I do the semi-colon edit! (And you know I never use exclamation marks.)

  7. Tania, I assume this book is nt fiction, any chance for a new novel? I would love to read you. M.

  8. Marianna - How very kind of you to ask. It is non-fiction. But I do have secret plans for two novels, in fact. So, fates and agent willing, there should be something around 2013. Rather a long wait, I'm afraid, but the writing and then publishing process grind small. (You might like to try some old ones: Elvis Has Left the Building and Nothing to Lose were written when I was still young and green, but I have a fondness for them still.)

  9. Oh Tania, you really made me laugh on this fine Friday morning. I want to make little smiley faces :) :). The idea of you sneaking into the sweet cupboard really made my day. What a brilliant mind you have for creating the Dead Darlings folder. Enjoy your weekend, I know I intend to.

  10. Hello, I am a new reader and very much in love with Pigeon. A stiff drink on a friday is compulsory.
    Cheers from sunny Devon.

  11. Susan - Must admit, dead darlings file is the best thing I ever came up with. It so helps with the pain. Such a kind comment; thank you.

    Anon from Devon - A NEW reader. Can't tell you how happy that makes me. Esp one that appreciates the full beauty of the Pigeon. Welcome.

  12. Lovely w.v. for you 'cutcat'! Isn't that brilliant? Cuttings catalogue. Or keep dog.

  13. I come here for the words and the photos, and today it was your words that made me smile ~ I have been there and have worn that t-shirt covered with platitudes.....great post, loved it all and I would love a peek into the dead darlings file one day.
    The best and most refreshingly honest read in a while ~ thanks!

  14. PS: As I am en France at the moment, the liquor was well and truly liberated a while ago.....have a happy weekend.

  15. I have a sneaking suspicion that anything in the Dead Darlings file is still vastly better than anything the rest of the population could produce.

    Muchly looking forward to the new book.

  16. Lucille - LOVE cutcat. :)

    Karen - incredibly kind comment. So glad it made you smile.

    Alex - how wonderfully kind you are. Thank you so much.


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