Advice: Killing your Darlings!

There are advice and then there are advice!

Who has heard of ‘killing your darlings’? I bet many of you have, whether you are in the writing business or film business, or any other business that has used it to essentially say kill the idea/project/scene/dialogue etc.

I’ve heard it on numerous occasions as advice, joke, or have used it myself. It sounds like a dangerous advice, but it is a very sane and useful advice. Especially for those creatives who fall in love with an idea and find it hard to modify/delete/rewrite etc because they are too attached to the project.

I used to be one. Believe me, I used to be one. Not a creative, but I mean, one who was always too attached to the project for its own sake. Ever since I’ve braved the blogging world where publishing is instantaneous, it really doesn’t leave much space for hiding. And when you no longer need to hide, you finally tend to come out from under the rock and see how much moss your creative property has gathered all the time you refused to emerge into the light.

A year ago, I sent my second novel out to get it professionally assessed because I was already looking to send it out to publishers, and for that, I needed to know how it stacked up. Yup, you heard right. My second book has been finished for over a year. Then where is it? What’s happened to it you wonder?

I didn’t kill my darlings! That’s what happened. I got the assessment, and refused to listen to the sage advice. I crawled back under the rock. Then life got in the way and I haven’t really given the book much attention since then because I was caught up in study and blogging and getting back into film.

Now it’s time. Since I published my first book, I’ve crawled back out into the light and I now see what they were advising me to do. Kill all those scenes that weren’t absolutely essential to the story, no matter how much it hurt.

Rule of Thirds was laid out as present/past/present, telling the main character’s story in a non-linear parallel format that juxtaposed past/present. The advice that had hurt the most? Kill all the past! That was hard to bear. Past was interwoven through 3 quarter of the book, it held soul, it held poignancy. I was not ready to murder that which I had created. Hence I refused to work on it for the last year.

Now, I’m back on the wagon, and in the last few days I have effectively killed the darling chapters of the past, and whatever was essential in them for the story, integrated into the present. Am I happy? Yes. I see it clearly now that I separated myself from it for a whole year.

Sometimes for the story’s sake, we have to do what feels harsh. We have to delete that which doesn’t work, or replace it. But whatever you do, do not refuse to kill the extra weight, extra darlings if it’s serving no other purpose than to increase your word count, or repeat the same information.

I’ve killed 3 chapters already.

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5 thoughts on “Advice: Killing your Darlings!

      1. I think his main idea was that your writing should scare you a little if you’re doing it right. Hence the use of ‘demons’.

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