Posted in writing advice

Killing Your Darlings

Every writer comes to a moment where they have to make a decision. You have been crafting this story element for what feels like days. It’s one of the best things you’ve ever written. You’re in love with every aspect of it. There is just one problem; it doesn’t fit the rest of your narrative. That’s when it is time to kill your darlings.

Killing your darlings is a common term in the writing community that refers to cutting out scenes, lines, or even whole characters in order to make the story better. It is one of the most painful moments of the editing process I have had to endure.

I recently had to cut one of my favorite scenes out of my manuscript. It told you so much about the characters and their relationship to one another. It has some of the best prose I’ve ever written, but the scene didn’t move the story forward. I fought to keep it. I moved it to different places in the story. I changed some elements to try to make it fit, but no matter how many changes I made, it just wasn’t working. So to the butcher block it went.

One of the good things about writing is that ideas do not have to be confined to their original source. That scene served no purpose in this manuscript, but it could be the glue that holds together a crucial moment in the next. The same is true for characters that you cut out. Maybe the sweet old woman isn’t needed in this story, but she could be a valued confidante in another. That’s why I keep a folder full of discarded story elements. Perhaps I can resurrect them in another project farther down the road.

Killing your darlings is painful. There is a reason you love them and want to hold them close. Just be careful that holding them near and dear to your heart doesn’t lead you to diminishing the rest of your work simply because you couldn’t let them go. Taking them out may be painful, but it will all be worth it in the end when you see the finished product shining back at you from publication.

Author:

Writing is hard work, but it's work that I love.

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