Love Your Darlings and
Rekindle Your Old Flames

Let me guess: You are a fiction writer, at work on your novel, and it is coming along swimmingly. Would that be you? If so, congratulations! Forget the rest of this editor's note and move on to the literary work published in this issue.

But if you are like me and many others, days are filled with the same questions: Will I write today? If so, how much? A few precious sentences? A venerated entire page? Will it be any good?

I would like to share one trick I recently adopted that, at the moment, is helping me. If you have a number of short stories already written, and preferably published, this trick may help you as well. If you do not already have a number of short stories out there, I have an alternate piece of advice. I will give that first.

Many of you have probably heard the term "Kill your darlings," originally advised by William Faulkner. I believe that, though the great author meant well, this recommendation can be misleading. If you are one who must follow the suggestions of the greats and have little darlings sprinkled in your stories, think twice about heeding the advice to critically evaluate and remove them if they are not absolutely necessary. If you like what you have written, there is something to be said in that. So your dear darlings do not move the plot along? So they are, for the most part, unrelated to the matter at hand? So what! If you like them, keep them. Perhaps they just need a little tweaking as far as the manner in which they are used. Removing a favorite piece of brilliance could reduce your incentive to continue, or could result in, yes, a more cohesive and concise piece that, in the end, has limited shine.

Anyway, to continue with the trick I mentioned earlier, assuming you have had some success at publishing short stories (or at least have written a number of them) and are now frozen in the thick of novel-block, why not try this: Reread some of your favorite material and fall in love, once again, with one or two characters you have created. Live in their world once more, absorb their personalities and predicaments yet again, and then see if you can have them appear, in small scale, in the novel. They are crying out for you. They want you to allow them to live on.

For me, the writing became easier with an already-fully-conceived character in my head. It was just a simple matter of how to use him or her. I lifted whole sentences, treasured ones, darlings, and reused them in the novel. At first, I thought such a thing was cheating, plagiarizing, if you will, my own very self, taking the easy way out to build up the word count. But I soon realized that readers acquainted with previous works of mine—yes, I convinced myself there are at least a few of you—might appreciate the whimsy, make the connection, and enjoy learning a little more about a character they read about in the past.

I caution that you should not go overboard here. Be careful what you reuse and who you reuse. This is a different technique than that which you may have been accustomed to seeing in the past, where a collection contained a set of linked stories with common characters. There, the characters are expected to appear numerous times in the book, and could be directly tied to a theme or message the entire work wishes to convey. Here, your old flame might show himself or herself in but one or two paragraphs, or perhaps a single, short chapter—just enough to keep the reader entertained, and more importantly, keep you cranking out the words.

What do you think of this? If the trick inspires, drop Summerset a line and let us know. Good luck! With that, we turn it over to our contributors in this issue. We hope you enjoy it. Happy spring!  —  JL


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