#atozchallenge: K is for Kill Your Darlings #fiction #writing #quotes

Theme: Quotes from Authors and Bookish People about Writing

The A to Z challenge is roaring ahead, and with the help of my amazing team, Guilie, Anna, Samantha, Csenge, Vidya, Jemima and Mary I’m trying my best, along with all my co-hosts, Lee, Alex, Tina, Jeremy, Nicole, Stephen, Heather, AJ, MJ and Pam to make this a smooth event. A lot of hard work is involved behind the scenes, so I would like to send up a huge cheer for each one of them!

On Amlokiblogs today, we’re talking about a painful topic for most writers: “Kill your darlings.”

This literary advice refers to the dangers of an author using personal
favorite elements. While these may hold special meaning for the author,
they can cause readers to roll their eyes.
— Urban dictionary

“In writing, you must kill all your darlings.”— William Faulkner

“Lie naked on the table, and let them cut. Criticism is surgery, and
humility is the anesthetic that allows you to tolerate it. In the end,
the process will make you a stronger, more flexible, and truly creative
writer. It will replace attitude with genuine confidence, and empty
arrogance with artistry.”
— Molly Cochran

“Beware of a scene that becomes too dear to you, dearer than the rest. It will usually be found that it is out of drawing.”— John Steinbeck 

“When an adult, try to read your own work as a stranger would read it, or even better, as an enemy would.” — Zadie Smith

When writing, have you ever killed your darlings? Was your work the better for it? While reading, have you found passages in a novel better left on the editing floor?

I love comments, and I always visit back. Blogging is all about being a part of a community, and communities are about communication! Tweet me up @damyantig !

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  1. lillian888

    Those are the best quotations I've seen on this touchy subject. In general, if my beta readers are united in telling me a scene, chapter, etc., is interfering with the forward motion of the story, I will shed a tear, grit my teeth, and cut it. What makes it somewhat less painful is putting that bit into a scraps file. Sometimes, in retrospect, some of those darlings come in useful somewhere else. Happy A to Z!

  2. Dean K Miller

    Can't think of an instance when Killing the Darlings hasn't resulted in improving the manuscript. My first drafts are so fluffed up, one would think I was writing about the world's largest creme puff. But alas, the knives will come, the puff will deflate and all will be much more "write" in the world.

  3. Stephanie Faris

    The book that landed my agent was originally young adult. I kept getting feedback that my voice was better suited to middle grade (a genre that barely existed when I started writing!). I changed the whole book, making the characters tweens instead of teens, and that's what brought the magic. I still haven't sold that particular book, though!

    Visiting from the A to Z Challenge signup page. Great to meet you!

    Stephanie Faris, author
    30 Days of No Gossip

  4. Jo

    Bit like getting an enemy to prune your roses. Frequently you cannot be tough enough to do the job properly yourself.

  5. Miss Andi

    One of the reasons I struggle with some of my stories is that I got attached to my characters too much and want to make their lives too easy. Which obviously doesn't make a very interesting series of events generally speaking 🙂 But they deserve it, I'm saying and stroke their heads gently. And they, like ungrateful teenage children, shake my hand away embarrassed. Lesson learned!
    Andrea, #atozchallenge Mighty Minion Asset
    Music and Words
    My Road To Happiness
    The Script Bible

  6. tombensoncreative.com

    I've already commented / replied to a previous comment (by cleemckenzie), but in essence I totally agree with the points raised here. I especially like the idea of reading your work as an enemy. First Class idea.
    I actually used the 'Killing …' for my letter 'K' post.

  7. Puru@ShadowsGalore

    “In writing, you must kill all your darlings.”- very true. being open and objective to criticism is the first an author must do, and so is the willingness to tear down a page which is not well written.

  8. Chad A Clark

    I frequently have to give up on what I love most about a story to make it more accessible and enjoyable for the readers. Good choice for the letter and thanks for all of your hard work keeping the challenge going.

  9. Jyotsna Bhatia

    Yes one of the most difficult things to do is to edit. I hold onto words so much that it is difficult to leave them on the editing table! But great advice 🙂

  10. Viola Fury

    Although I write mostly rhetorical pieces or posts on my daily life, there are certain ideas that just don't work. Redacting is a part of the creative process and like music, a necessary one. I've had to change interpretations within a piece, because it didn't fit the whole of what I was trying to express. Evil, but necessary! Thanks, Damyanti

  11. Li

    I have left several characters on the cutting floor – and, on occasion, resurrected them for an entirely different story. Sometimes they just won't stay dead. Hmmm…maybe I'll do a post on zombie characters – as in the ones that we cut out of one story, but they keep reappearing in our other work!

  12. Guilie Castillo

    Powerful advice–if extremely difficult, might as well say impossible, to follow. "Humility is the anaesthetic that allows you to tolerate it"–YES. I know so many writers who ask for "feedback" but get offended when it's not a gushing "I love it! You're the next J.K. Rowling!" Cheerleaders are great, even necessary, but let's not confuse them with actual, functional, critique partners. And the bit about reading your work like a stranger, "or even better, as an enemy would", is just plain GENIUS. Thanks for this, D!

    And thanks for the shout-out–it's a pleasure to share this A-to-Z as a member of your team. You're wonderful!
    Guilie @ Quiet Laughter

  13. Sophie Duncan

    I have favourite words that my editors keep killing for me – they're bad habits. Also, whole chunks of text have hit the recycle bin when killing those darlings that were just perfect when they were written, stunning examples of perfection – which turn out to be junk in the scheme of things! ;P
    Sophie's Thoughts & Fumbles – A to Z Ghosts
    Fantasy Boys XXX – A to Z Drabblerotic

  14. sydneyaaliyah.com

    I had a beta reader annihilate my MS and it hurt. Heck, it still hurts, but I put it away and revisited it few days later, picked out what I could use and forgot about the rest.

  15. cleemckenzie

    You can always save those darlings, tuck them away until you grow more as a writer. Then read them. Bet you'll toss 'em or rewrite, so that they're hugely better than the first time around.

    • tombensoncreative.com

      I used this very topic for my 'K' post and I actually have files with a collection of phrases, scenes and characters that I check out occasionally. Like many other writers, I spend quality time creating these things so unless they are particularly bad, I save them for another day.