So I’ve got rats in the garden.

I knew something set up house under the strawberry bed when I saw mounds of dirt dug up around the beds and tell-tale holes.  Still, I thought it might be chipmunks or some other cute rodent living under the strawberries like animated Disney critters that sleep in mini-beds and drink out of thimbles.

But the neighbors said they saw rats.  Then my wife saw one.  And there’s only one thing you can do once the wife sees rats. I put out rat bait.

This morning my wife peered out the patio door at a family of rats feasting on the bait.  At least three of them would dash out of hiding, dip into the plastic tray and scurry off with the green pellets back to their hole.   She felt bad for them, wishing there was a way to get rid of them without actually killing them or handling them in any way.

I didn’t want to tell her that once winter set in, the family of rats might want to find a warmer spot, like our house.

Sure, I felt sorry for the furry vermin.  I get no thrills from poisoning them, but you have to draw a line in the sand somewhere.

I have the same problem letting go of something I have spent too much time writing.  They say ‘Kill your darlings”, but they never tell you how hard that is.  I have held on to characters, plots and novels far longer than I should have, knowing they were lost causes, but just refusing to part with them.  Those are the characters that move in for the winter and live inside the walls of your mind.

No more.

I’m working on a YA novel that not only kills darlings with impunity, it is keeping me in the dark.  I’ve gone through so many outlines and chapter sketches that I don’t try anymore.  Every paragraph I write veers from the proscribed path.  It is the most frustrating and exhilarating thing I’ve ever written.  It’s also pretty good.

So I don’t mind killing a few darlings, so long as it helps the story.  If I keep holding on to old plots and outlines written in stone, I might as well open the patio door once the first snowfall hits and learn to live with rats.


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