Friday, September 24, 2021

Writing: Kill Your Darlings

 I can't recall who said it, but it's true--sometimes it's necessary to cut out words that you've written. You have to "kill your darlings," and often it results in a better novel. 

I have a target number--so many thousand words. It's not firm, because I publish "indie," but I try to stay roughly within it. My first reader, whom I ask to read mainly with an eye to publish-ability of the idea, said, "This doesn't read like a Mabry novel." I did a few changes, then asked an editor (yes, indie authors have them, too) to read and comment upon it. She did, making some excellent suggestions, including my rewriting the ending, changing the ending, and in general saying, "Redo it." Since I've had my share of editorial letters, I didn't kick the cat (much), and I'm about half-way through the revisions. 

I've probably cut 2% of the words, sometimes large sections, but I suspect I'll end up adding others. It just goes to show, however, that sometimes it's necessary to kill your darlings. The words may have sounded great to you when you came up with them, but if they don't add to the story, rip 'em out. It only hurts for a little while.

Ever had to kill your darlings? Let me know. I won't tell.


Patricia Bradley said...

I'm a very lean writer and often have to add words, but even then, I sometimes have to kill scenes that don't fit. Or at least rewrite them. So glad to hear you're almost ready to release a new book...

Speaking of killing darlings, the book I turned in last November had to have an almost total rewrite because it had so many holes. That's never happened with my romantic suspense books although I did have to rewrite my first romance novel. I think you would agree, it's easier to kill someone off than it is to get them together. :=)

Priscilla Bettis said...

Yes, I've killed darlings, but the really good ones I save and work into a different story. My very first published story was an expansion of a deceased darling.

Richard Mabry said...

Patricia and Priscilla, thanks for your comments. It's good to know that even multipublished authors sometimes have to rewrite their work. And, I also have a folder into which I put material that has to be cut--and sometimes I can work it in somewhere else.