Thursday, March 8, 2012

Kill your darlings

All of us writers have heard the phrase: Kill your darlings. This originated with British author Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch who wrote in his 1916 publication “On the Art of Writing,”: Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it—whole-heartedly—and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings.

Many writers have espoused the concept over the years, including possibly the most successful writer, Stephen King. He says in “On Writing,”: 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).... And a little later he says, It’s always easier to kill someone else’s darlings than it is to kill your own.

You know where I'm going with this... I have a writer friend who insists on keeping the same bits of prose in every draft of her novel even though they don't work. But I can only make suggestions, ultimately it's her decision, as it should be.

We all do it. So, if you ever see another writer (like me!) clutching some darlings to their heart, refusing to let go of them: Tell them! And if someone tells you... Listen.


  1. Wonderful post! I'll be citing this as a reference in a blog article I'm writing under the same title.


  2. *Whispers* Kiiiiiiill them...

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  4. "I would say to Robertson what an old tutor of a college said to one of his pupils: 'Read over your compositions, and where ever you meet with a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.'" Samuel Johnson, in Boswell: Life of Johnson