I’ve always heard the phrase ‘Kill Your Darlings.’ William Faulkner said it. Stephen King said it. Every speaker on writing I’ve ever heard has said it. Even my editor said it last year during a particularly brutal round of revisions.
But what does it really mean?
Kill Your Darlings. Kill Your Darlings. Sounds pretty gruesome, huh? Well, it’s not so bad. Except when it is.
For writers, it refers to those things in your manuscript you love. Those things that resonate within your soul. Those things that speak and cling to you, but for whatever reason, they aren’t working. They are the stumbling blocks you can’t smooth because you want them to work. You, as a writer, are forcing everything else to conform to that sweet darling, but your darling isn’t helping. That darling is standing stubborn and giving you the finger.
Therefore, you must kill. Slay. Murder. And do it without apology.
Today, I had to kill a darling. This wasn’t something trivial, either. This darling was a major plot point. It was carved into my manuscript in blood. It is going to take a massive overhaul to remove it. But while I was writing one of the final chapters, this darling was hanging on like a dead limb. It was in the way. Not at all useful. And detrimental to the growth of the story.
Because as much as I wanted to keep it—because in theory, it was BRILLIANT—the darling never fit. No matter what I tried. No matter how I re-wrote it. Square peg, round hole.
So, today, my darling died.
I am sad, but I truly feel like it's for the best. With the amputation, I feel I can make the manuscript stronger. Better.
I read a quote once that said, “In writing and living, sometimes you must destroy what you like to get what you love.” I have no idea who said that, but it is so very, very true.
Today, my darling died. But today my manuscript became better.
Have you had to kill a darling? Tell me about it. Maybe it will help cheer my broken heart.