Note to Self: Kill Your Darlings Before They Kill You

Yes, yes I am writing little notes to myself again.  I’ve already confessed my post-it addiction…

Don't Judge me
So, I have no idea who said it first…  I think maybe Faulkner, but the internet fairies are being really stingy with the answers today.  I found 5 other possible originators of the phrase…

KILL YOUR DARLINGS.

Anyway…  I’ve heard this a lot lately.  And I thought that I was putting it to good use.  After all, everything that I write is important to my story.  If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t write it, right?

WRONG!!!

Basically, when a writer is given the advice to kill their “darlings”, it’s to get rid of what we think is truly important to our story, but isn’t.

I cut almost my entire opening scene of my novel yesterday.  It hurt.  There may not have been blood but for a moment…  there was a chance of tears.

To be honest, I knew when I wrote it that most of it was going to have to go.  It didn’t really have anything to do with the plot of my story… but I loved it!  They were some of the best words ever written!  (Okay, it was some of the most OKAY words ever written.)  And so, I left it there for a really long time.  But yesterday was the day…

I finally killed her.  Her name was Betty and she was beautiful.  (Fine.  I cut and pasted her to a new document so I could use it later.  Geez, you guys are brutal today!  Must be in cahoots with the internet fairies.)

You know what?  It’s so much better now!!  Taking out the unimportant nonsense (unimportant to this story, at least), gave me the opportunity to really delve into my main character and let the reader really get to know her much earlier.

So all in all, I’m really happy about killing my darling (aka Betty).  If I hadn’t, she would have killed my entire novel.  Still…

I’m going to go put my black veil back on and mourn now.   Have a Happy Monday!

15 thoughts on “Note to Self: Kill Your Darlings Before They Kill You

  1. Yes, Jess. You nailed the meaning of “Kill your darlings,” along with why it’s so hard to do. I like to think that we needed to write those scenes and characters on the way to what becomes essential to the story we are telling. And I loved that you have gently put Betty away . . . to return to a more appropriate place . . . or to dwell in your memory with her kindred ghosts.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Love it…. Perfect for those of us who blog, too. I find that I write several drafts of posts that are virtually identical and then have to “kill” the extras (after copy/pasting the good things). Many a draft has been scrapped in the pursuit of not saying the same thing in 42 different ways.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ugh, I understand this phrase better than I wish I did 😦 I rewrote the beginning of my novel around 5 times because it just refused to be correct. Now I’m happily married to those lovely first ten pages and I have “Kill your darlings” to thank for it.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Yes, deep down there is a vicious moment when we realize those dear sweet ink droppings just have to go. Now! Never easy, but necessary. So, mourn a moment, cherish their thoughts (kept handy in their burial urn on your documents file, then go on without them. This too shall pass.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Very, very true! It’s amazing the things you can chop out of a story when you step away from it for a while and return with a clear (and honest) head. I set myself a task last week of taking a 500 word story and editing it down to fit the brief for a max 400 words submission. I was convinced I would fail given that I spent a lot of time honing the piece in the first place but in the end it was relatively easy. Feedback so far is that pared down version is an improvement on the original rather than a dilution.

    It’s a great habit and mindset to get into whether it’s for short story, blog or novel – I tend to be a little less draconian on my blog but the principle remains.

    Like

  6. Yeah, I don’t kill my darlings. I upload them to Doctor Moon, so instead of definitely dying forever their digital consciousness is preserved in a safe place until circumstances align so they can come back.
    Invisible internet fudge to anyone who gets the reference. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

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