There is an episode of Homestar Runner (if you’re unfamiliar, Google it – lots of laughs to be had) in which Homestar tries to answer Strong Bad’s email and ends up crashing the computer. His problem is that he can’t remember the word “deleted,” so he keeps typing in other words until the computer implodes. His first guess is “Baleeted!” and that is the very word that comes to mind whenever I delete something significant from my writing.

At the beginning of Aret, the protagonist celebrates her 21st birthday alone, getting drunk in a crappy bar. When she arrives, she orders a shot of tequila, then observes various items hanging on the wall behind the bar while she waits for her drink. In my first draft(s), the description of those items was weird, convoluted, and rambling. I rewrote the passage several times but never got it quite right.

Over three years, approximately thirty people put their hands on that brief passage. A writing professor and a class of twelve, a critique group, and more than a dozen other readers offered feedback, and with all of their help, the passage expanded, contracted, and utterly transmogrified. At long last, it said exactly what I wanted to say, exactly how I wanted to say it. I sat back and read the finished product with a smile as the following thoughts ran through my head:

It’s done. Finally. Word choice, flow, rhythm, everything in perfect order. Halle-freakin-lujah. And would you look at that? This passage is completely distracting and superfluous. Huh.



[That’s how I felt about deleting something that took three years to write, although when this photo was taken, I was demonstrating my feelings towards entering the Pacific Ocean at 8 a.m. Stand-up paddleboarding is fabulous, but early mornings and cold water? Blech. No.]

All writers eventually find themselves deleting work the moment it has achieved a state of perfection. That is a fact of writing, but its inevitability doesn’t remove the sting, and the emotional rollercoaster is dizzying. “Boo, this is awful. I’ll never fix it. It’s hopeless. Wait…hold it…that’s a little better. Ooo, now it’s much better! Still not quite right, but…oh, wow! Voila! Perfecto! Ah ha ha ha ha! I’m so awesome! And now…delete.”

Yes. Three years of revision well spent, indeed.

The Sun Always Shines on Aret


Building a world is fun and complicated in equal parts. While it’s fun to create a host of new rules to govern one’s land of make believe, the complexity manifests in holding oneself accountable to those rules, which, of course, involves remembering them.

In the early stages of this story’s development, I decided that time runs ten times faster on Earth than it does on Aret. What led to that preposterous, labyrinthine choice? I have no idea. Really, I cannot remember, but considering all the trouble it’s caused, I have to believe it was a decision based on sound logic.

Once the rule was established, Aret’s plot and characters intertwined all around it, creating a sticky mess of narrative knots unthinkable to untangle. So I had to embrace the 10:1 time factor, despite its propensity to cause twitchy eyelids and bouts of explosive swearing.

Throughout the writing of book 1, I thought I took great care in following the terrible time rule, but during one of my nine thousand revisions, I discovered something dreadful. Over the course of the story, about three weeks passed on Earth, which meant that only two days had passed on Aret. However, in every scene that took place on Aret, the sun shone brightly in the sky.



That was not a happy realization, but I tried not to panic. I leashed up my dogs, took them into the woods, and commenced an intense, semi-combative internal dialogue.

Inner Me #1:  What am I supposed to do about this? Half the scenes on Aret should take place at night!

Inner Me #2:  Hmm. Maybe there’s no night on Aret. It’s just day all the time!

IM #1:  Oh, Kelly. That is so lazy.

IM #2:  True. Maybe I need to get rid of that pesky 10:1 time rule.

IM #1:  Okay. Except that means recreating the entire story.  Are you up for that?

IM #2:  Um, no. Maybe I don’t want to be a writer. Maybe I should be a firefighter instead.

IM #1:  Good grief. Quit whining and put some scenes in the dark already!


So I did. I combed through the narrative, figured out the exact timing as characters traveled between worlds (a painful, migraine-inducing experience), and, at long last, incorporated sunsets and starry nights into Aretian scenes.

Bringing darkness to Aret led to another new rule – my dragons have perfect night vision, yet they burn torches in their Council Hall at night, anyway. Why? Well, they’re sophisticated creatures. I imagine they enjoy the ambience.

As I reflect on the process of creating this story, I have one piece of advice to offer other budding fantasy writers. Consider NOT messing with time. Time doesn’t like being manipulated. It just might retaliate.