Writers On Writing / Cryogenically Freezing Your Darlings with Tiffany Tsao


Tiffany Tsao is the author of the acclaimed fantasy novels, The Oddfits and The More Known World, and her debut work of literary fiction, Under Your Wings, was released by Penguin Australia earlier this month. We spoke to Tiffany about rough drafts and cryogenically freezing your darlings ahead of her one-day course at Writing NSW, The Art of Revision.


Writers are often told, ‘Kill your darlings!’ Does good revision mean you have to throw away all your favourite sentences, or favourite characters?
Definitely not! If you do have sentences, characters, or scenes that you are particularly fond of, it probably means that they’re good and you should try to keep them! Having said that, it’s important to ask yourself why they’re your favourites, and assess whether they should be your favourites in the context of the text you’re writing. In the case of fiction: is their presence vital to the narrative or crucial to setting a certain tone and pitch? Or are they extraneous, confusing, or at odds with the effect you want to achieve? Would you like them as much if you were a reader and not their creator? When you ask yourself these sorts of questions, you may find that your favourite sentences, characters, etc, aren’t really your favourites – or at least, they might not belong in that particular piece of work. But don’t worry, you don’t have to kill them; you can cryogenically freeze them by writing/typing them down somewhere for use in another future work.

How many drafts should it take to get to that final manuscript or short story?

It varies! Occasionally a story or scene will turn out almost perfectly on the first try. Sometimes it will take several drafts to get a text just right! It also depends on the writer. I know someone who produces one rough draft in the course of writing, whereas I always produce at least three or four rough drafts. There is no magic number. It depends on how you work as a writer, what kind of mental and emotional space you’re in, the kind of work you’re trying to write, what you want from the final product, and a whole host of other conditions and factors! The key to effective revision is being aware of these things and taking them into account.

What’s the best advice you’ve received about revising your own work?
Give yourself time. Factor revision into the writing process. Don’t just have it be an afterthought. I received this advice in a first-year writing course I took as an undergraduate, and I still heed it today. Time gives you the luxury of taking a break from your work, resting your brain, and re-approaching it with a pair of fresh eyes. And a clear head and new eyes are invaluable for honing a piece of written work into the best possible version of itself.

The Art of Revision with Tiffany Tsao will take place at Writing NSW on Saturday 1 September, 10am-4pm.

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