Don't Kill Your Darlings!

April 25, 2018

 

“In writing, you must kill all your darlings.”

― William Faulkner

 

"Really?! I should delete all of my favorite parts? But, why? I love my darlings! That's why they're my darlings.. duh."

 

 That's the first thing I thought when I read that quote. I flew into auto-pilot and rigidly decided that Faulkner was talking out of his ass. But, after some introspection, I re-assessed my initial dismissal of Faulkner. What was he really saying? Did he really mean that I should get rid of all of the moments I loved the most in my WIP (work in progress)?

 

Today, what I believe Faulkner was saying is you must get rid of all of the things in a piece of art that does not serve that piece of art. So, that long-winded bit of prose that sounds like poetry, but makes the story stop dead in its tracks... delete. Or, that three page description of an intricate and complex political system you developed, yet it is so extraordinarily boring for every beta-reader to go through... delete. Better still, that one line you put in where you dropped some deep bit of philosophy that only really makes sense to you, but makes no sense for the antagonist to say... delete.

 

 We all do it. As writers, we have a tendency to slip out of the story, into ourselves and then insert something that doesn't really serve the artwork. It's these bits of ego that Faulkner was referring to. Moments where the story would be far better served if our ego wasn't so busy getting in the way. Now, what it doesn't mean is that we should remove anything that we, the author, really loves. No. Those parts are the moments that define why we write. They are almost like Easter eggs, hidden in a bush, that we writers rejoice in when they are found. It's something special when a reader tells you how your piece of art affected them. When they tell you how that moment you loved touched them in the same way it touched you. I know I love it. So, I doubt Faulkner would have felt any different than the rest of us when those moments are discovered by his vast audience. He is human after all, just like you or I. 

 

Don't delete your favorite sections of a story you worked hard on. Do delete those parts that drag the story to a halt and/or does not serve the story. Those are the darlings you need to kill. They are obstacles to your growth and serve only to bring your art down.

 

Many blessings!  And remember, NO EXCUSES. JUST WRITE.

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