The Muse helps you murder your darlings and tells you about a real-life book thief.
Music licensed from Storyblocks:
“More Jam Please” by Raighes Factory
"Singin' the Blues" by Humans Win
"Alone" by biggrez
If you have plot bunnies coming out of your plot holes, it’s time for a writing break.
Welcome back to Writing Break. Today’s episode is filled with mystery and intrigue. As promised in our last episode, we’re reviewing the writing advice of killing your darlings. But before that, I’ll tell you about a mystery in publishing that is now solved and an alleged manuscript thief who has been apprehended.
The bookstore we are visiting today has a cafe, so let’s head there first.
Today we are at Baldwin and Company, a black-owned independent bookstore and coffee shop located in New Orleans, Louisiana. This young bookstore already has an established presence in the community and regularly hosts events with local and visiting authors. They carry self-published authors on a consignment basis, hooray for that, and they have a podcast studio and an event space available for rent.
This month marks their one-year anniversary, and their website describes Baldwin & Company as “truly more than a bookstore, it’s a celebration of a growth mindset.”
This bookstore does have an outdoor courtyard, but it’s too cold outside for this Miami native. Fortunately, there are many nooks and crannies in this store where we can sit and talk shop.
I’m going to get a mug of hot chocolate. You go ahead and get whatever you’d like, it’s on me.
When we were first brainstorming the segments for this podcast last year, I wanted to name the news segment “They’re Doing What Now?” because this is what I usually think when I read the news. That idea was met with lackluster enthusiasm from the team, so I had to assassinate that little darling of mine. We’ll talk more about that later.
However, this next news story is a prime example of the w-t-f-ness of people’s antics.
Last month, the FBI arrested Filippo Bernardini, an Italian citizen who worked at Simon & Schuster. Bernardini is charged with wire fraud and aggravated identity theft for allegedly impersonating, defrauding, and attempting to defraud hundreds of people in order to obtain unpublished manuscripts.
Bernardini’s indictment said that he registered more than 160 internet domains in order to impersonate other people. It seems that, over the course of 5 years, he conducted a phishing scam wherein he was targeting authors, agents, and others in the publishing industry to get them to send along draft files. The targets included works by Margaret Atwood, Sally Rooney, and actor Ethan Hawke.
While some manuscripts and information about film rights and upcoming projects were handed over, ransom or blackmail demands were never received, and none of the books ever turned up online, so the motive was never clear to investigators. Without a motive, how do you choose a suspect?
Daniel Sandström, who is the literary director of a Swedish publisher that was targeted multiple times, told Vulture last year: “If you try to find financial and economic gain, it’s of course hard to see. But if the game is psychological, a kind of mastery or feeling of superiority, it’s easier to visualize. This is a business full of resentment as well, and in that sense, it becomes a good story.”
K-lytics recently reported on Amazon sales in post-apocalyptic and dystopian fiction. Here are the overall takeaways: readers are more interested in dystopias than in post-apocalyptic books.
Dystopian tropes that are performing well include those around class and slavery.
Post-apocalyptic tropes that are performing well include those based around experiments, laboratories, and ecological disasters, but snow, ice, and wind, not so much.
Books about pandemics and plagues are leading the pack in post-apocalyptic fiction on Kindle.
Links to these articles can be found in the show notes of this episode on writingbreak.com.
Before we kill our darlings, how about we do some book browsing and check out an independent author?
Today we’re shining a spotlight on S. M. Ryan and her new release, The Novel Writing Journal: A journal to help you cultivate a deep connection with your novel. This journal features guided entry pages, writing prompts to turn to when you're struggling with your project, and space to help you uncover your writing blocks and work through them and keep moving forward.
Let’s take it to the register and then use that cozy couch in front of the mural of Langston Hughes as today’s Overthinking Couch.
Today, we’re overthinking the writing advice known as “Kill Your Darlings.” First, some background.Cornish writer who lived from:
At one point in this text, Sir Arthur discusses how flowery, ornamental writing cannot be considered style. Hear, hear.
Finally, he says this:
“Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it—whole-heartedly—and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings.”
So he’s saying, write it down. Don’t show it to anybody.liam Faulkner, who lived from:
And later still, Stephen King, who, fortunately for us, is still alive and well, wrote, “Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.”
Great, that’s established. Successful authors are giving you good advice, and you're still not listening to them.
I know you're not heeding this advice because these darlings are still around, skulking into your manuscript and weakening your good sentences, the ones that resonate with the reader and advance the plot.
Now, let's consider Sir Arthur's home office. Perhaps he was a modern man who forwent the fountain pen and worked on a typewriter, the size and weight of which would splinter your IKEA desk.
Given the arduous revision process Sir Arthur had to go through, the amount of time he spent with a manuscript before it went to print was considerable. These days, we have the freedom to move much faster from first draft to final files.
You should be moving through your manuscript at such a rate that you aren't falling in love with your own words to begin with.
So, how can we update Sir Arthur's wise words? Simple: don’t catch feels.
Don't have darlings to begin with. Don't dwell on how lovely a sentence sounds. Dwell on whether it's actually saying anything that your audience needs to read. Using today's technology, there is no reason for us to be sitting around looking lustfully at our words and swelling our egos, not when there's more writing to be done.
Thanks for listening to this week’s Writing Break, and please remember to subscribe.
If you would like us to visit your favorite independent bookstore, feature your favorite independent author (even if it’s you), or discuss something you’re overthinking about, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for making space in your mind for The Muse today.
Writing Break is hosted by America’s Editor and produced by Carolina Montealegre with technical direction by Gus Aviles. Visit us at writingbreak.com or contact us at email@example.com.