I’ve been killing a lot of darlings lately.
I first heard the phrase “kill your darlings” in a On Writing by Stephen King. He was quoting William Faulkner, who was paraphrasing a passage from Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch’s On the Art of Writing. It’s a quote that I hear often, and have struggled to grasp the full meaning of. I think that only now I am beginning to understand it.
I’m currently working on the fourth draft of my first novel. Over the last three drafts I have created and expanded my plot, my characters, and my world. I have spent time crafting details and delving into backstory to add dimension and depth to the novel. I have grown a rich garden of images filled with lush foliage of words. Now it is time to weed.
The problem I’m having is deciding what darlings to kill. Must every darling be killed? What parts do I uproot entirely and where do I just perform a very thorough pruning? I really liked that turn of phrase, even though it doesn’t fit the mood I am trying to create. Must it go?
Yes it must. Word count for word count’s sake is a good thing as far as events like NaNoWriMo is concerned. But the reader can easily become bogged down in all those flowery phrases and unnecessary details. There are times where using a single word wisely will speak volumes more than a paragraph. There is wisdom knowing when to apply that single word, and when that paragraph.
I am still trying to obtain that wisdom. Come to think of it, I’ve spotted a few darlings in this post that should be killed too.