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“Kill your darlings”

October 19, 2008

I believe it was Faulkner who uttered those words.

He was, of course, referring to passages we write that make us think we’re fragging geniuses.  An especially nice round of dialogue, a killer climactic scene between protagonist and antagonist, a bit of description that is a sensory delight.

Thing is, these genius moments are probably extraneous to the story itself.  Not always.  Sometimes they’re just damn cool and advance the story to boot.  Most of the time, however, you can remove these literary wonders and the story won’t even notice.

These are the darlings we must kill.

I’m facing this in Across the Veil currently.  The beginning of Chapter 2, posted on this blog a few days ago, begins with a nice description of the father’s house.  I love the language and sensory cues in it.  It, I feel, puts you right in front of that house.

It also makes the beginning of the chapter slog through mud.

I’m in first draft mode, the mode where I write with the door pretty much closed (not completely, obviously) so I have plenty of time to decide if I’m going to kill that darling or just chop it up mercilessly.  I won’t hit the edit/rewrite until six weeks or so after the first draft finishes.

Thing is, I’m not looking forward to it.  I hate “losing” parts of my writing that I feel showcase some of the talent I have with our quirky little language.  I love waxing poetic.  That’s fine if you’re a poet but I’m not.  I’m an aspiring fiction prose writer and there are few times we can afford to wax poetic.  I’d much rather axe the beautiful passage and create something fast paced and enjoyable for my readers than keep it and lose readers at that point.  Essentially, if it means the difference between selling the novel and not selling it, it’s gone.

That may seem money-grubbing.  It may sound like I want to sell out to the highest bidder.  It might, but I don’t.  Really, selling books is, in my mind, all about getting my crazy little stories out to the public.  If I can make a bit of scratch doing it then that allows me to spend more time puking these insane visions of mine onto paper and getting more stuff out for readers to (hopefully) enjoy.

And a lot of times that’s all about killing your darlings.

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