Day: April 13, 2015

#AtoZChallenge: K is for Kill your Darlings

For the A-Z challenge, I am posting writing and editing tips to help you improve and enhance your writing.

K is for Kill Your Darlings


This is the thing that, in my experience, writers find the hardest to do. ‘Killing’ the bits of your writing that you think are the best bits, taking them out, removing them, losing them, ditching them.

Yes, you read that right. To make your work the best it can be, you should cut all those bits you love the most. The sentences that you crafted so carefully, that took hours and hours. The paragraphs that contain those breathtaking metaphors and clever, clever similes that will show the world (and all those agents and publishers) what an absolute genius you are. Those single words that you deliberated over, taking them out, putting them back in, reading and re-reading over and over again. Kill them.

I can hear the gasps from here. After all, why on earth would you do that? These sentences are the best writing you’ve ever done. They showcase your talent. They read beautifully. You love them.

Therein lies the problem.

Perhaps this quote from Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, prolific novelist and literary critic, might make it clearer:

“Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it – whole-heartedly – and delete it before sending your manuscript to press.”

When we write we sometimes get caught up in the words rather than the story. As writers, we should have our readers in mind, have our story in mind. Often, when we have produced a finely crafted, clever phrase or paragraph, we have become so involved in the construction that we forget the purpose. We have an emotional attachment to these words and phrases – they are our darlings. But they may be completely unnecessary.

You need to look at your writing impartially, to break those emotional ties. This can be an extremely difficult thing for a writer to do. But it is imperative for a writer to distance themselves from their work during the editing/revision process and to be resolute.

Kill your darlings yourself before a beta reader or an editor does it for you. They may not always do it as kindly!

kill darling gif

Do you have any examples of sentences you’ve loved but have had to kill? I’d love to read them so do share by posting a comment below.