Slaying My Darlings


A southern writer, the most eloquent William Faulkner, once said,

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

Until you begin writing day in and day out, you have no idea how hard it is to pull the plug on passages you thought were so fresh, so brilliant, the likes of which no one has ever read. The inspired ones. The ones that made your lips spread across your face in wonder, or made you shout, “Ding dang-it, I’m good!” The ones that spilled from a torrent of your innermost thoughts and feelings.

So along you sail, accepting your editor’s corrections with a simple tick on a check box. “Okay,” you say to yourself. “I see that. Acknowledged and accepted.” And then you spy a larger box, a bright pink one, ahead in the next paragraph. Your heart skips a beat: not another correction, but a comment. She loves it? She’s confirming my fabulous turns of phrase, my talent?

“Superfluous. Consider eschewing.” Superfluous? In one swaying moment the truth crashes in like a hostile intruder.  Your darling is in peril.

But the editor’s right. And so was Faulkner. Passages that are unnecessary to the plot, the ones that don’t help move the story along, must go. So your finger hovers above the delete button. And in the space between heartbeats, your darling joins the ranks of the dearly departed.

OR, you can do what I sometimes do. If I just can’t let go, like a parent peeking through a classroom window, I file my darling. I have a folder on my desktop. And guess how it’s labeled? “Slayed Darlings.” I haven’t done anything with these passages yet. But I have an idea. I may post one of them here occasionally, like a blooper from a TV show. And if you’ve read one of my books, maybe you’ll try to guess where the little darling would have belonged.


2 thoughts on “Slaying My Darlings

  1. Alice Vargo says:

    I get this totally!! I have some paintings that I will never hang, sell, or give away, but I can’t paint over them or throw them away. Don’t know what that means, but it is what I do😜

    Sent from my iPhone



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