Quick post today because what little time I have today needs to be focused on killing my darlings (words, that is).
From yesterday’s post, I mentioned the concept that as authors, we give birth to stories and words and they start to feel like our children. We get awfully protective of them, even snarky if people try to hurt them. But at some point, we have to realize that they are NOT children, they do NOT have feelings, and they–in many cases–are dragging down the story.
I think William Faulkner was one of the first to coin the phrase, “Kill your darlings,” and I couldn’t find a specific one that mentions drowning (*this is sounding awfully morbid–sorry), but here is Stephen King’s approach from his book “On Writing,” published in 2000. Knowing it’s coming from Stephen King will put the concept in perspective:
“Mostly when I think of pacing, I go back to Elmore Leonard, who explained it so perfectly by saying he just left out the boring parts. This suggest cutting to speed the pace, and that’s what most of us end up having to do (kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings)…I got a scribbled comment that changed the way I rewrote my fiction once and forever. Jotted below the machine-generated signature of the editor was this mot: ‘Not bad, but PUFFY. You need to revise for length. Formula: 2nd Draft = 1st Draft – 10%. Good luck.’”
“If you’ve never done it before, you’ll find reading your book over a six-week layoff to be a strange, often exhilarating experience. It’s yours, you’ll recognize it as yours, even be able to remember what tune was on the stereo when you wrote certain lines, and yet it will also be like reading the work of someone else, a soul-twin, perhaps. This is the way it should be, the reason you waited [to read your draft]. It’s always easier to kill someone else’s darlings than it is to kill your own.”
Focus. I can do this.
Wish me luck!
*disclaimer: I really am a normal, functioning, non-violent person–or as normal as authors ever are. FYI, finding a ‘normal’ picture of Stephen King was quite the experience.