Killing Darlings

Chapter four of Mutual Benefits is over halfway done. My optimistic side says “expect it sometime next week,” but you know that I recommend against taking his word as gospel.

All in all, as a writer, I’m insanely privileged. I don’t work with an editor or an agent, and basically have free reign to work on anything I please. This leads to a couple of consequences. Number one, I get a lot of errors. As I’ve discovered since posting Mutual Benefits 1-3 on sites where anonymous commenting is allowed, commenters are more than happy to make comments and messages about spelling and grammatical errors, sometimes sending upwards of five messages, each with around five words explaining an individual error, like “toher = other.” That’s the whole message. That said, at least it gives people a real reason to look forward to the more edited polished versions.

Number two, a positive consequence, I don’t have to kill my darlings as much. There’s no agent in my ear going, “Sorry, word has come down from above, Nicole isn’t quite the role model we were hoping for, she’s gotta be axed.” I also can work at my own pace. If I take too long, my Patreon will suffer, so ultimately, how well I do is up to the Court of Internet Opinions, which is what I signed on for. I’ve been in their favor, I’ve fallen out of their favor, and I’ve accepted both situations and kept on writing.

Given this second point, I don’t often have to grapple with killing my darlings. Often when I have an idea for a story, I file it away and reserve it for a time when I’m not that busy and find myself inspired to write that particular story. Even though I have planned “Seasons” for my writing, this has happened a few times – Chasing Faith, Teacher’s Threat and even Breathe were results of me needing to get a particular story out of my head because I was so inspired to write that and only that. I can push stories to the front of the line, or file them away, but I never need to axe them entirely. I’ve axed one or two idea, but only because I found myself disliking the premise I came up with or finding that it was a story that worked much better in my head than on paper.

This week was the first time I properly killed a darling of mine. I badly wanted to make a second blog on this website – one dedicated to reviewing terribly written erotica tongue-in-cheek style. I envisioned it as kind of a Mystery Science Theater 3000 style – I’d show the text of the story, then occasionally “cut away” to my own paragraphs making fun of a particular sentence or a trope or sexist/racist depiction or something. It seemed fun in theory, and everyone on the internet loves a little critical content every now and then.

There were a few troubles with making a second blog like that, which I recently accepted. Number one, logistically, in order to do a wordpress website with two blog pages, I’d basically have to overhaul the entire design, and knowing me, I might accidentally delete my website in the process or something. (For those that don’t know, I’m an embarrassing luddite – I had to ask a friend how to make a WordPress account in the first place.) Number two, the optics of being an erotica writer that takes a bit longer to finish stories is already rough – not only is an extra project like this more work on my plate, but it would not be good optics to produce content more slowly than my associates and also more frequently make content tearing other creators down.

The third reason is the biggest one. While I would love to point out, “hey look, this author doesn’t know what a hymen actually is” or, “wow, look at this author, he feels the need to reference slanted eyes every time he references an Asian character, how embarrassingly racist,” critical/negative content attracts critical/negative people, and brings out the most critical/negative energy in all of us. I used to watch some YouTube creators that are critical of others’ content, and while it’s fun, I found myself getting more and more negative and enjoying things less and less. So I cut out those YouTubers and replaced the content with my old staple (80s sitcoms) and I actually felt positivity slowly coming back to my life. Overly negative content, consumed over and over, can act like a poison for one’s positivity, and I didn’t want to feed my negativity like that.

Similarly, I don’t want to get anyone else hooked on the same negativity. Occasionally, I get very kind messages and emails telling me my stories gave them joy, and I’d much rather do that then make people upset or critical at how much of the world sucks. So, last week, I officially axed the idea and told myself that, despite wanting to, I am not going to do the erotica review blog. It might be a good idea, and someone else can pick it up (there’s a lot of stuff in Being More Social chapter 1 that deserves to be pointed out and laughed at, believe me) but I won’t be the one to do it.

Killing darlings sucks. There’s a reason they’re called darlings. I felt like that blog was going to be, when I had time, my next big passion project, and it sounded like something that would get a lot of traction on the internet. But sometimes, these things just don’t work out. I’m sure down the line the same fate will happen to a story of mine. Maybe after I finish the concept, or maybe after I’ve published a few chapters that go nowhere. I don’t know, and I’m not exactly ecstatic to find out, but, that’s the nature of creating, especially creating online. I’ll talk to you all next week.

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