K is for Kill Your Darlings

stabbed book

“In writing you must kill all your darlings”

William Faulkner.

No, this doesn’t mean you have to go on a murder spree… not a physical one anyway. The ‘darlings’ in this phrase refers to what you deem as your ‘best bits’ of your writing. If you find that you have just written something that feels like the highest quality of writing you’ve ever jotted down… delete it. That’s the advice. Why? The notion is that if you love these words too much, you may have lost a sense of objectivity when it comes to editing. It may truly be a wonderful piece of prose, but then again it may very well clash with the rest of the book as a whole.

We do write in sections when certain things hit us, that we know won’t fit with a WIP at its current point. More than once we’ve written something that we loved – such as a particularly traumatic section of one of our major works in progress. It was powerful, gripping, frightening, and completely derailed the rest of the story. So it had to go. The result of this we hope as a whole will make the eventual completed story a solid success.

Alternatively, some writers take the ‘darlings’ to mean their characters. Not minors or supports, but the leads or the favourite characters. From our earlier post ‘E is for Evil’, you should know that we are not impartial to killing off support characters or traumatising and hurting our leads, but, could we actually kill our darling characters?

Erm… that would be telling.

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3 thoughts on “K is for Kill Your Darlings

  1. My purple prose goes in a junk file – a half-way house to the bin – this gives me a chance to look at it again and make a considered decision rather than a snap one!

  2. Great advice. If I write what I consider to be ‘a darling’ and it doesn’t fit anywhere, it gets saved under “possible inclusion somewhere”. This goes for one-liners as well as long sections. If I like something, someone else will, even if it doesn’t work for that particular storyline.

  3. I’m learning to do this, and usually I don’t have too much an issue deleting. Usually, I am simply moving that text out of the manuscript and into an Extras file, so I never truly lose it if it’s something I think may be worth keeping.

    Hope you are enjoying the A to Z Challenge! Here’s mine from today: A Girl and her Diary

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