Saturday, May 7, 2011

Killing Your Darlings

"In writing, you must
kill all your darlings."
— William Faulkner

Well, Bill, it's been a bloody day. The darlings are lying in tatters around my feet. I have hopes that one of them will be resurrected somewhere else in the novel, but, for now, it's been cut from this draft of the novel.

What are darlings, you may ask? Darlings are those well-crafted pieces of writing every writer adores when they're created. We cherish them, nurture them, and protect them through draft after draft, honing the words around them so that we can keep them just a little bit longer. Unfortunately, they don't fit in the work. They may be lovely sentences or finely wrought scenes. The writing may be some of the best work you've ever done. But, when it comes right down to it, they don't work. They have to go. And the only thing you can do is take out the scalpel and start cutting.

Today's been that day for a couple of scenes in my novel. As I said, one of them may find a home elsewhere in the novel. There's actually some information in it that has to show up for something else to make sense later on, but, I had to cut it from where it was.

The lesson I've been learning lately is that my editing has shifted from honing the writing to making sure that the writing fits the story. It's the difference between worrying about the quality of the writing and realizing the quality is no longer the issue, it's a matter of whether the writing is doing the work it needs to in the scene or if the scene fits. Something may be written very well, but, if it's in the wrong place, it will be as jarring as playing the wrong note in a piano recital.

So the darlings fell today. One by one. And it wasn't as difficult as I thought it would be.

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