Sunday 13 January 2008

Killing Off Darlings

We are told to kill off our darlings, to get rid of that one beautiful piece of writing that shows the rest up. We really should edit out anything that doesn’t fit anyway. Every bit of prose should add to the plot, enhance setting or tell us more about the characters. It shouldn’t be there just for its own sake.
That it is there just for its own sake is what makes it a darling in the first place. As we create our darling, we are hung up on the writing itself. We want to show off the best of our skills. We create something which is superb, but sadly which does not fit the rest.
It is really this “not fitting the rest” which is why we have to kill it off. There are two ways to kill off a darling. Take it out, or make everything else match. If everything else becomes equally good, then the darling will not appear as a darling, but will just be part of a very rich text.
Then we may face the next problem. The text may become so rich that it is indigestible.
There is some hope in all of this. If a small piece of one of our works is superbly written and we are rather fond of it, but we need to take it out, we don’t have to get rid of it altogether. We might put it somewhere more appropriate. We might keep it for a rainy day. This is all so possible with modern IT.
Chances are, though, I suspect, that look at that particular darling again in six months time, and we might wonder how we ever managed to write it or become so fond of it in the first place.

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