Kill Your Darlings... and Your Contentment

So, whoever came up with that whole kill-your-darlings bit was a smart person.

You've undoubtedly heard it before: if you love a line in your WIP so much that you can't imagine deleting it, you probably need to.

When I first heard the saying, though, I have to admit I was skeptical. Probably because I felt like it erased any ability I had to objectively critique my work. If I thought something was good, who was to say my judgment wasn't good enough?

Well, let me tell you, after hours of macro-editing my WIP over the past few days, I have been converted. I have deleted entire scenes that I once thought were brilliant. And you know what? The new stuff is way better.

I think what happens is not that we suffer from some inability to accurately perceive our own writing as good or not good (although that might be true sometimes too), but rather, that whenever we think a passage is particularly strong, we become content with it.

Contentment in writing is a dangerous thing.

It keeps us from pushing forward. So yes, maybe your "darling" really is outstanding, but if you delete it, you'll leave an empty space that pushes you toward something even better.

After all, you wouldn't want to delete one of your favorite lines, only to substitute it with something lame.

Something to think about.

Do you have any examples of how this principle has worked in your own writing? Have you been hesitant to "kill your darlings," even when you had a gut feeling they weren't bettering a passage?


  1. I agree! I have deleted so many lines from my original ms, and now I am so glad I did!

  2. Oh, I have so many lines like this! It's never a good feeling when I think one of my lines is so funny, then someone critiques it and says, "Why's this in here?" :-)

  3. Angie and Sarah, thanks for your feedback!