Skip to main content

#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

β€œIn writing, you must kill all your darlings.”— William Faulkner

β€œLie 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?

Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her literary crime thriller series, the Blue Mumbai, is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency. Both The Blue Bar and The Blue Monsoon were published in 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


  • wktucker says:

    I've read it termed "killing your babies", and oh, it is a terrible, painful process

  • lillian888 says:

    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!

  • 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.

  • Susan Scott says:

    That's a very tough yet necessary one, thank you so much. It's like in real life too! Like lancing a boil …
    Garden of Eden Blog

  • Trisha F says:

    Yes, killing one's darlings hurts a lot!

  • 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

  • Marie says:

    Excellent advice, and one that really requires another person's objective eye!

    Marie at

  • Jo says:

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

  • Molly Cochran's tough but true.
    And yes, I have killed a main character before.

  • Miss Andi says:

    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 πŸ™‚ 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

  • 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.

  • Noted… But still a very painful thing to do..:)

  • N A Vadhiya says:

    Nice post, Thanks a lot to share with us. Searching for jobs Ind Govt Jobs.

  • β€œIn 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.

  • Anita says:

    Very wise sayings here. Noted them πŸ™‚

  • A good read, and thanks for all your support!

  • Chad A Clark says:

    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.

  • Mou Mishra says:

    Sad but, it is how writers evolve.

  • 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 πŸ™‚

  • So true. I think you have to get to the point of emotional detachment to be able to truly edit.
    Play off the Page

  • Viola Fury says:

    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

  • Good advice that is vital to a writer's work. The ctitique may hurt, but helps.

  • Li says:

    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!

  • Mary Johnson says:

    This is why I will never write a novel! I never know when to stop or what to cut πŸ™‚

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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.

  • I have both killed characters and edited out sentences that I loved. I thought it was true that the writing benefited from both.

    ~Patricia Lynne~
    Story Dam
    Patricia Lynne, YA Author

  • cleemckenzie says:

    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.

    • 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.

  • Yes, yes, and yes. It's definitely painful but necessary sometimes.

  • Probably one of the hardest things to do, as a writer, but necessary.

%d bloggers like this: