Thursday, January 16, 2014

Killing those darlings

by Kim Smith

It has often been said that sometimes writers have to "kill their darlings". What exactly is meant by this statement and why on earth would a writer do such a thing?

Well, sometimes a favorite scene, passage, character, or event in a story is not moving the plot forward like it should. It simply exists because we (the writer in question) love it. So the only alternative is to cut it out like a piece of bad apple.

Let's be honest, now.

We love that one line, that joke, that description that is so perfect the reader can smell it. Well, almost. The point is, we LOVE it -- WE the author, the writer of said work has penned something so awesome and earth-shattering that we don't care that it is slowing the story down to a halt. WE DON'T WANT TO TOUCH IT!!!

But touch it we must. Cut it out. Kill that darling piece of writing that you simply adore.

How does one do such a cruel and terrible thing? Well, first you have to discover that there is such a phenomenon in your work.

How do you do that?
Hopefully, you have mean and nasty beta readers who would love nothing more than to tell you to cut it out. Literally. They can be useful things, those betas. Then too, if you are lucky enough to have an editor, that person will be the one to seek and destroy your darlings for you. And the bonus here? You can bemoan the loss of your darling to your heart's content, because you DIDN'T do it truly. The editors and or beta readers were the murderers.

Another way to ditch the darlings in your work is to remember that they ain't dead forever. You can always resurrect those snippets that you cut in another work. Just cut and paste them over in a folder on your old hard drive. There. Not dead forever. Ever.

Thirdly, you will care a lot less about your darlings with each book you write. The more words you pen the fewer darlings you find. It's true, my friend. Darlings can sometimes be a sign of an immature writer. The only way to grow up is to write a lot.

Good luck.

Kim Smith is the author of An Unexpected Performance, Ten Tips for Getting that Book Written, and several mysteries and romances. You can find more about her at her website,

1 comment:

Aaron Paul Lazar said...

Hi, Kim!

Oh, how I relate. In my first book (which I rewrote totally several times), it just broke my heart to lose whole chapters that my beta readers told me were unrealistic or "wouldn't happen that way." I was a dumb neophyte, and I took their words to heart. Probably a good thing, too. LOL. Thanks for a wonderful article!