The first time I disagreed with my agent on edits, I was terrified. If I pushed back, would she drop me as a client, since I hadn’t sold a book yet and she was basically editing my work for free? She said that the lighthouse scene in Wicked as They Come was a cul de sac, an appendix, a pleasant jaunt that could be excised from the book completely without changing anything. I’d found my line in the sand (at the base of the lighthouse, apparently). “No,” I told her. “The lighthouse scene stays.” And her response gave me an epiphany that I remember and teach to this day.
“Then make it work,” she said.
She explained that the lighthouse scene had to go from being an appendix to being a liver, something you can’t live without. The scene had to impact character and plot such that it was impossible to remove it from the book without altering the story completely. So I figured out how to turn that scene into a major plot point that played into the climax, and I learned that she was right. Sometimes we hold onto darlings for the wrong reason, and as writers, we have to be able to look critically at our work and make changes that will strengthen the story as a whole. But “make it work” applies to so many parts of the writing life. To me, it means that nothing is truly set in stone, and that my job is to be flexible and nimble and find a creative solution to whatever problems arise. Marketing, editing, first drafting, writing IP for Star Wars: There are no actual dead ends, just new routes to a better book.
Delilah S. Dawson is the New York Times bestselling writer of Star Wars: PHASMA, The Perfect Weapon, and Scorched; the Blud series, Servants of the Storm, the HIT series, Wake of Vultures and Conspiracy of Ravens (as Lila Bowen), and a variety of short stories in anthologies such as Robots vs. Fairies, Hellboy: an Assortment of Horrors, Violent Ends, Carniepunk, Three Slices, and Last Night a Superhero Saved My Life. Her first comic, Ladycastle, is out now from BOOM! Studios, and she’s also written for Adventure Time comics #66-69 and the upcoming Labyrinth anthology.
Delilah is the winner of the 2015 Fantasy Book of the Year from RT Book Reviews for WAKE OF VULTURES and the 2013 Steampunk Book of the Year and May Seal of Excellence for WICKED AS SHE WANTS. She has earned stars from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and Library Journal for WAKE OF VULTURES, as well as a star from Library Journal for the Blud e-novella The Damsel and the Daggerman.
She teaches writing classes online at LitReactor and lives in Florida with her family.