Wednesday, May 20

Killing Your Darlings

Killing Your Darlings

Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings. — Stephen King, On Writing

Let’s talk about murder: killing your darlings.

I’m editing my WIP. The first draft is written—it feels as though I’ve scrawled it in blood—and now I've started on the first, painful, edit.

 What do you think I’ve found right smack dab at the beginning of the second chapter? Yep, a darling.

Darlings are pieces of prose you’re inordinately fond of. Often, you think they constitute your best writing.  (And perhaps they do.) You just love them. But there’s a problem: they don’t further the story. To keep them you’d have to bend the story out of shape. (Or, as I like to think of it, “pretzelize it.”)

And that’s bad. That’s when I’ve got to go sharpen my knives.

To work me up to the task of cutting out this particular bit of prose, I went back to my writing bible. I think all writers have a writing bible. It’s not an actual bible of course, but it is a book that has helped me more than I could ever adequately express, it is a book that makes me glad I was (insane) lucky enough to want to be a writer.

I’m talking about Stephen King’s, “On Writing.” The book changed my life. Reading it, I felt as though some kindly master of the craft had taken time out of his day to sit down with me and pass along a few tips.

The Criterion

King believes that a writer “should use anything that improves the quality of your writing and doesn’t get in the way of your story.” 

That’s the criterion: Does it work? That is, does the story or technique please “at least some of the readers some of the time.”

King writes: 

“If it works, fine. If it doesn’t, toss it. Toss it even if you love it. Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch once said, ‘Murder your darlings,’ and he was right.”

As is so often the case, it is good advice that is agonizing to apply. 

I guess I better trudge along now and do what needs to be done. Now, where did I put that scalpel ...

Happy writing!

1 comment:

  1. I loaned my copy of On Writing to someone in my CG...never got it back. I'm glad I made copious notes to intrigue my blog-writer friends. Need to go back and peruse my highlights.


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