Kill Your Darlings!


If you write long enough you will experience (hopefully often) the joy of that perfect sentence. That moment when the doors of inspiration open up, thoughts come together and manifest in your consciousness. They flow out from your fingertips like cloud to ground lightening, and burn across your manuscript. Oh, magnificent wonderment! What is it, you ask yourself? Where did that come from? You have no idea but you do know it is beautiful!

When the elation wears off and reality returns, you may be slapped with a thought or two.

One, (here enters self-delusion) what you’ve just written is the most perfect, poetic, graceful, well-constructed sentence you’ve ever written. You are in love with your creation. You think, who wouldn’t be?

Secondly, (here enters reality) and more to the point, it does not fit your work in progress (wip)—that beauty of a novel you’ve been pounding on for months. Doesn’t fit. Not anywhere. Not one word is actually applicable to the manuscript whereupon it landed; worse, it doesn’t fit any wip on your to-do list.

What to do with your beautiful creation, your darling sentence? As you ponder this dilemma, a whispered voice speaks to you with sobering advice:

“Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.” ― Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

10 thoughts on “Kill Your Darlings!

  1. Oh, but that’s so hard to do! I copy them to another Word doc where I keep all my cuts. That way they aren’t really dead. It’s easier on the heart than the delete key. After a while, I forget about them and move on.

    • Sounds like you and I are of the same ilk concerning our cuts. I, too, have what I call The Bone Files where rather than killing them I hoard multiple pages of good ideas and scribbles I have yet to use. Maybe we are ‘idea hoarders’, D. Wallace Peach? Like you, I rarely revisit The Bone Files. Perhaps we should. Who knows when we may recover something golden we put away for safe keeping long ago. On the other hand, it would be less of a clutter to follow Mr. King’s advice. Just can’t make myself do it as much as I could. Thank you for posting!

  2. I never kill my darlings. They might be relegated to some distant place and kept in close confinement. One day they will have served their sentence and be released to wander about my pages again. 🙂

  3. Pingback: Best Fiction and Writing Blogs | M.C. Tuggle, Writer

  4. It takes me three-four rewrites to recognize the little darlings. They seem so witty that I imagine they’re vital to the story. How embarrassing to discover the truth.

  5. The Bone Files! Wonderful. I’ve a few of those darlings hanging around and then I get the hunch sometimes that even my darlings are not real darlings, then I get in a complete quandary, what do I do with the anti-darlings that I think are darlings? Ash files!.

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