I'm running the first part of a novella that I'm working on past my writer's group this month. Some of the feedback has already come in.
I have been tasked with murder.
It's a small line. It's not even a particularly pretty line. It's simple, only seven little words.
It has to go. I know it has to go. The minute she told me it was a problem, I could recognize where it dragged the reader out of the narrative.
It's still in there.
I mean, it's flagged, and I'm going to get around to it. It's just...
I like it. It felt good to write it. Reading it echoed that feeling of giddy satisfaction.
Like I said, it isn't much. I think part of the reason I liked it in the first place was that it summed up everything that section of the story was saying. But the rest of the section is good. Quite good, I think... I read the whole thing through four times after work yesterday before settling down to revise it, and I liked it every time.
So if the thing is so good, it doesn't need a thesis statement.
I've shown in detail everything that that little sentence that brings me such delight is saying. So it's unnecessary. Therefore, it must go.
And here's the thing; the fact that I love it is not a mark in its favor. It's actually a mark against keeping it. That little joy I feel when I read it is only an echo of what I felt writing it. It's got nothing to do with whether or not it actually works. And here's the thing: I'm not the reader. I never will be, ever again. And if I love this line so much that I struggle like this to get rid of it, then I know for sure that it's me peeking out from the page, basically winking at the reader. It's ego. It's me asking, see? Do you see how clever I am? And that just will not do.
My job as an author is to convince the reader, for whatever length of time they spend with my book, that what I've written is actually happening. To make them feel the pitiless sun, or the sting of betrayal; to make them taste metallic fear in their mouths while they read.
And if they see me, peeking out of the page at them, that's not going to happen. If they see me, the entire endeavor is a temple built by me to me, and that isn't interesting to anyone but me. That self-satisfaction must be sacrificed on the altar of good writing, and the meat passed out to your readers as sustenance.
Because it's not about me.
Now I must go sharpen my knives. I have killing to do.