::Writing:: Kill your darlings

On September 16, 2010 by Aimee

No, that doesn’t mean kill someone, just your favorite scenes from your manuscripts. And why in the world would anyone do that? Well … because it will, invariably, streamline and push your novel forward.

I happen to like that phrasing, stolen from my very good friend Claire Gillian.

I did not ‘kill my darlings’ in Hide & Seek and I ended up with a 97k word manuscript. Well … I’m going back through and sure enough, have already killed 3 scenes in the opening 4 chapters which cut out 3000 words (more actually).

What’s the principle behind this editing activity? Like I said … streamlining. One problem I’ve found, in 1st-5th drafts, is that I want to keep everything in. I want every scene to be the stepping stone to the next. What I found in a recent ‘review’ of my other novel — Do Over, is that I can kill a lot of ‘stuff’ and it makes the story faster.

Yes, sometimes we want slow, but not in the beginning. In those early 1-5 chapters, we want to push through, faster, keeping our readers enthralled and since I write paranormal with an element of suspense, I GOTTA keep it fast.

What happens when I ‘kill my darlings’? Well, with one scene, I deleted it and it had NO impact whatsoever on any future part of the story. Oops. Then that meant it was filler. Another scene was combined into a second and third and made the information flow better. Now I’m looking for parts where I go off-tangent and pull the reader from the story itself.

It’s about keeping the reader engaged and sometimes, those ‘darlings’ are what pull us out. They add fluff, but no substance. They aren’t even spice, they are the spices that fall off when you shake the bottle too fast.

So, that’s what I’m doing in my current editing cycle … killing my darlings. Bye-bye darlings. Maybe I’ll scoop you up for another book, at some other time.

What’s your latest editing technique? Share!