Killing Your Darlings: The Most Masochistic Writing Tip Ever

I did what I had refused for weeks.

This morning, I hit delete on some of the best sentences of my writing career.

Ouch.

That is killing your darlings—if it doesn’t hurt, it ain’t real.

Do You Love one Sentence More Than All Others?

Often, our most tear-jerking sentences make our prose feel out of proportion and unfocused. However resonant and well-constructed, they block the reader’s experience if they don’t match the context.

We feel there’s something wrong. So, we keep tormenting ourselves, trying to rewrite everything around our brilliant sentence. Because, of course, our spark of genius can’t be the problem!

With every effort we make, our story becomes weaker.

And then it hits us. Everything around our great sentence was fine all along.

A hard decision

Our hearts begin to ache. We push the decision forward. But in the end, nothing but that invaluable delete button will save your story.

And what a relief it is when you read the result. When the offensive sentence, paragraph, or phrase is gone, something new arises—unexpectedly powerful.

Kaboom!

Reuse Omited Material

Many writers keep a database of sentences and scenes they liked but that didn’t fit the context of the book they were writing—or that didn’t have a context at all (many stories start as a shower-inspired phrase).

If you’re attached to those marvelous sentences you must massacre, put them in a Word doc and store them in your Darlings Database. Chances are, you’ll find a new destination for them.

Enjoyed this blog?

Have a look at my other posts. And if you need help finishing your story, let’s chat.

Killing Your Darlings: The Most Masochistic Writing Tip Ever

Niels Kwakernaak

Nonfiction Editor

Thanks for your interest in my experience and ideas. I write these blogs to help you overcome the hurdles of being a writer.

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