by Judith Couchman
Might we in our rush to kill all our darlings risk beheading our only valuable bits of expression or insight?—John Crowley
You write like crazy. Brilliant ideas spill from nowhere. Original word combinations flow. Then your editor says, “This passage doesn’t fit. We need to cut it.” The editor deletes paragraphs of your stellar work.
You feel like you witnessed a murder.
Traditionally, writers call these cherished but unusable passages and pages their “darlings.” Authors around the world, from Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch to Stephen King, have advised writers to kill those darlings: the gorgeous words, sentences, and passages not effectively contributing to the work. But it’s not necessary to completely obliterate them. Although they’re cut from a work in progress, you can save them for a possible future project, or even later in the current manuscript.
One novelist laments, “I should have treasured all first attempts, drafts, notes, even just ideas that I ever got when writing my novel or even when just thinking about it. Now I do! I save them all! Characters, scenes, and plots have their way to evolve and go full circle to reclaim their rightful place in your work.”
So don’t commit murder. Gently move your little darlings to a literary safe house, a file you won’t lose. Someday they might find their rightful place.
Judith Couchman is currently writing the book, 365 Ways to Keep Writing & Loving It, available in time for Christmas through Elk Lake Publishing. She is an author, speaker, writing coach, and adjunct professor. Judith has traditionally published more than 42 works. Learn more about her at www.judithcouchman.com. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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