Die, you darlings, die! by Donna

A recent hike up in Rocky Mountain National Park
I'll get to this week's topic in just a minute, but wanted to make a special announcement about an upcoming week on the YAMuses blog.  

We're going to feature our "reader request" week for September 3rd and we need to hear from YOU!  What questions do you have for the Muses?  What topics would you like to see covered?  Please comment on today's post (or any post this week) and mention what you'd like to discuss with us.

Now on to the murder of our little preciouses.

‘Kill your darlings’ is advice from William Faulkner (supposedly); the full quote is “In writing, you must kill your darlings”.  Others say it came from Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch: “Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it – whole-heartedly – and delete it before sending your manuscripts to press. Murder your darlings.”

I don't think it means to cut out all  the tidbits of writing you especially love, but rather to not get SO attached to the actual words, or characters, that you can't see the bigger picture - it isn't working in the main story.

Let me give you a couple of examples.  I am re-reading SKINNY for the UK page proofs.  First of all, it took me a long time to open the document.  There was something daunting about re-reading it in a "final" format.  But when I did, I found some fun surprises.  There were these paragraphs... bits of dialogue...character descriptions...I completely forgot I wrote and absolutely loved.  I'm so glad I didn't cut them at the time thinking they were "my darlings." 

 On the other hand, in drafting my second novel I tried to include bits and pieces of "drawer" writing.  (I write very sparse and slow on a first draft, so I was thrilled to have saved chunks of previously unused text to plug into my current story.)  It immediately upped the word count and effortlessly added scenes and characters.  Unfortunately, most of it didn't fit.  It wasn't that the writing was so bad (okay, sometimes it was), but it wasn't right for THIS story.  My little bits of "writing darlings" had to stay in the drawer and they soon had other writing friends join them.

I personally don't believe in killing off any writing with potential.  Even if it is never right for a story, it might still be the word or phrase that inspires something different and better. 

 So, if it doesn't fit for now, save it.  

Just maybe put those little darlings in a coma?


Love the coma idea...or maybe those favorites are like naughty spoiled children you need to put in a time out until they are ready to behave and be useful.

My request for the muses is this: can you address how to stay on an even emotional keel during the writing, revision, and querying process? You must have an easy answer for that one--right?

One minute I'm sure that my ms. will be picked up by an agent and am ready to soldier on and the next I feel like I am completely crazy and have just wasted the past 1.5 years of my life with this obsession. I find myself craving positive feedback and spending too much time looking for it when I should just get back to revising the novel.

So how do you stay sane throughout this bumpy ride?


I try not to hoard stuff, but I hoard those darlings I cut out of my writing. The coma idea is awesome!

Oh, that's a fantastic idea, Heather, and we talk about it almost daily with each other.

Beth, hoping to hear some good news soon from you!

This post reminds me of writing essays in college. I would have about 3 or 4 documents open at once, and be working quotes in wherever I could fit them, if only to up my word count. But most of the quotes I loved and chose to use didn't work and I had to cut them. Although I kept them in a file for another time. It was only beneficial a few times, but I was able to take a quote from an article last minute and beef up an average essay making it excellent, and it was all because I couldn't bare to let it go.

Keeping those "darlings" hidden away for another time is also a great idea when you're dealing with writers block. Reading some old lines from something I wrote a while ago can usually spark something.

Thanks for sharing!

Post a Comment

Grid_spot theme adapted by Lia Keyes. Powered by Blogger.


discover what the Muses get up to when they're not Musing

an ever-growing resource for writers

Popular Musings

Your Responses

Fellow Musers