Thursday, September 9, 2010

What I've Learned - On Writing (3)

On Writing: 10th Anniversary Edition: A Memoir of the Craft

For the last few weeks, I’ve been going over stuff I’ve learned from Stephen King’s book on craft, On Writing. There’s no way I could ever cover every morsel of advice the “King” gives, but for those who haven’t read it, I’m trying to hit on the major points.

Today I’ll focus on one phrase from the book: Kill your darlings.

This phrase has meaning on all kinds of levels. I think the gist of it, is that you can’t be afraid when writing. If you need to cut something, slash away – be it your main character’s best friend, or one of those pesky adverbs that weaken the manuscript. (Yes, even Stephen King has first drafts riddled with adverbs that need to be killed.)

I know it’s hard to get rid of something when you’re so close to it. It’s hard for me, too, but you owe it to yourself and your manuscript to make it the best it can be. Sure, maybe that dialogue you wrote last night is ZOMG THE BEST DIALOGUE IN THE HISTORY OF WRITING, but when you step back, does it serve any purpose in the book other than to prove you’ve got the chops to write good banter? Only keep the things that move your story forward. Forget all the flowery prose and get to the heart.

I’ve been trying to keep this in mind as I edit my first draft. I will admit there have been nights where it felt like cutting off my own arm when I deleted a whole scene*, but in the end I think my novel is better because of it.

So what about you? Are you an axe murderer when it comes to your WIP?

  • The Rejectionist’s take on killing your darlings
  • Tabitha at Writer Musings analyzes the different definitions of “Kill Your Darlings”

    *NOTE – I do keep a deleted scenes file just in case the scene can work somewhere else. I try my best to resist adding it back, but sometimes they sneak into a different part of the novel.

    P.S. - I promise I'll be back to my regular posting schedule in two weeks. Right now it's crunch time at my day job and I've been working some crazy hours, which means no time for blogging (or writing!).

    1. This is something I have no problem with. I don't really see how anyone could have a problem with it, but that's just me.
      I have yet to read that book. I think I'll go look for it at the used bookstore next week.

    2. It's killing me that I don't remember where I read this but some published author was saying that usually when he's laughing or thrilled with some bit of dialogue, it gets cut later because even though it sounds good, it doesn't move the story forward.
      It's just so hard to cut those little darlings...

    3. I also keep my deleted scenes. You never know if you could turn them on their ear for a different book, or find a way to change them and make them work in your current story. Regardless, readers might like to read deleted scenes on your website or blog later on, once the story is published.