“Kill your darlings” is a well-known writing adage urging writers to let go of their cherished yet indulgent prose to improve their work. While it may sound harsh, this golden rule of editing can be the key to creating a captivating and engaging story. In this blog post, we will discuss the “kill your darlings” trope and how writers can harness its power during the editing process.
Understanding the kill your darlings trope
The phrase “kill your darlings” is often attributed to American writer William Faulkner, but it has been echoed by numerous authors over the years. The concept behind this saying is simple – as writers, we must be willing to eliminate passages, characters, and ideas that may hold personal significance but do not contribute effectively to our story.
How a writer can use this trope during the editing process
1. Identify your darlings: Before you can start slaying your beloved passages or characters, you need to recognise them. Identify parts of your work that you are particularly attached to but may not be essential to the progression or cohesion of your story.
2. Proceed with objectivity: To make tough editing decisions, you must detach yourself from your emotional connection to your work. View your manuscript as a neutral third party and focus on what will make the story most engaging for readers.
3. Get feedback: Share your work with beta readers, critique partners, or a professional editor who can point out extraneous sections that you have overlooked due to personal attachment.
4. Weigh each darling’s importance: Consider what each character or passage brings to the table and whether it truly adds depth or value to your story. Ask yourself if removing a darling would harm or benefit the overall narrative.
5. Maintain focus: Your primary responsibility as a writer is to carry your reader through a cohesive and engaging story. If killing a darling strengthens your storytelling, then it’s ultimately in your best interest to do so.
Embracing the “kill your darlings” trope in the editing process can be challenging for any writer, but with practice and courage, it becomes a powerful tool for improvement. We become stronger and more effective storytellers by shedding our attachments and focusing on the greater narrative. So, writers, draw up your swords and prepare to kill your darlings – your stories will thank you for it.