Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like

On refusing to murder your darlings


As I get ready to publish Occasional Soulmates (get your copy on September 23!), I’ve been thinking back on its origins. This is fascinating to me, because, frankly, when I start a book there’s no guarantee that it will come to fruition. In fact, I have many more abandoned projects than completed ones — and I mean a complete first draft, not a refined, revised, published novel.

I went back to my note file this morning and found that my very first thoughts on the book were dated November 11, 2008.

The idea for this came to me in the middle of the night last night. I imagined a woman self-consciously examining her experiences in love as if she were reading or writing a Chick Lit novel. It’ll be self-reflexive, winky, funny, and probably poignant in the end.

Guess what? It turned out exactly like that!

I also said the love interest should look like Jude Law. Not sure why, though it’s possible I’d just seen Sleuth or something.

Anyway, by December 1, I had 26,000 words and the thing was humming right along. But on December 9, I announced to myself that I wouldn’t be working on it anymore.

Why? Because I’d just signed with an agent on another book, a bigger book, the kind that I thought would really put me on the map as a writer. Of it I’ll say nothing more, other than that I spent the next few months revising it to the agent’s specifications so it would have the best possible chance of getting picked up by a New York publisher.


Needless to say, a year later that book had not found a home, but in the meantime I had written Yesterday Road and the agent was happy to shop it around.


Looking for something to work on, I fished out good ol’ Wish I Were Here (as it used to be called) on August 2, 2010, and dusted it off. I liked it. It was about halfway done, so I hammered out the rest of the plot and finished up the first full draft by September 20. A record for me!

I was excited by this book. It was different. It had a first-person female protagonist, it was fun, it had emotional depth, but it was an easy-breezy read for today’s distracted consumer. I fired it off to my agent, but — almost inevitably — she passed because my other two projects with her hadn’t gone anywhere.

Them’s the breaks, my friends, but now, four years after that, Wish I Were Here has morphed into Occasional Soulmates, and I’m putting it out there on my own terms.

Moral of the story? Don’t toss out your old manuscripts. You never know when one might have a new life, and thanks to indie publishing and ebooks and CreateSpace, you don’t need an agent or an editor to allow you past the velvet rope.

Don’t forget, sign up for my sporadic newsletter today and you’ll get to see the cover mañana!

(Image via The Project Twins.)

12 comments on “On refusing to murder your darlings

  1. Charles Yallowitz
    September 8, 2014

    Great origin story. I hope you have a lot of success with this book. Sounds like it’s been brewing for a while. Something about doing it on your own terms might make victory even sweeter too.

    • Kevin Brennan
      September 8, 2014

      Thanks, Charles. At least there’s an outlet, if you really believe in your work. Used to be that books died when all the traditional paths were exhausted.

      • Charles Yallowitz
        September 8, 2014

        And some call those the ‘good old days’ for some reason.

  2. islandeditions
    September 8, 2014

    So happy that you did not murder any of your darlings!

    • Kevin Brennan
      September 8, 2014

      Thank you, Susan! I have more darlings waiting for their turn… 😉

  3. sknicholls
    September 8, 2014

    Interesting story. A dream becomes a dream come true. 🙂

  4. kingmidget
    September 8, 2014

    Note to self … start a note file.

    In all seriousness, I have far too many half-completed projects. This gives me renewed hope that I may eventually get around to turning them into complete projects.

    • Kevin Brennan
      September 9, 2014

      Good luck. Sometimes it’s worth going through the old stuff just to see if there are some useful ideas in there…

      • kingmidget
        September 9, 2014

        Problem is that I know they are useful ideas. I just don’t have the time to get back to them.

  5. ericjbaker
    September 9, 2014

    I look forward to reading it. On your other point, I think it’s safe for me to toss my old projects. The world won’t miss them, and neither will I. Onward.

    • Kevin Brennan
      September 9, 2014

      Not so fast! You could use some of your old stuff as a “book-within-the-book” thing. They could be the psychotic villain’s rambling brain drivel, or the fantasies of a prisoner with no hope of escape.

      Not a bad idea, eh?

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