MORE EASY WAY
Writers Digest Best Writers' Site &
Critters Best Writers' Info Site 2010/11
Murder your darlings was a phrase first coined by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch (or Fitzgerald or Faulkner or Nabakov or even Stephen King, depending on who you believe). They're all referring to what you might call your best bits. The bits you should edit out of your work.
As Elmore Leonard once said, If I come across anything in my work that smacks of good writing, I immediately strike it out.
The theory is that writing youre particularly proud of is probably self-indulgent and will stand out.
You might think this is good. Wrong.
You will most likely break the fictive dream. (This is the state of consciousness reached by readers who are absorbed by a story.) And breaking your reader out of this fictive dream is a heinous sin!
Editing out the best bits is the hardest thing a novice writer has to do after all, isnt it counterproductive to write good things down only to cut them out?
Look at it this way
When you start out, every word you write is precious. The words are torn from you. You wrestle with them, forcing them to express what youre trying to say.
When youre done, you may have only a paragraph or a few pages but to you the writing shines with inner radiance and significance.
Thats why criticism cuts to the core. You cant stand the idea of changing a single word in case the sense youre trying to convey gets lost or distorted.
Worse still, you have moments of doubt when you think youre a bad writer - criticism will do this every time. Sometimes you might go for months, blocked and worrying over your words and your ability.
There is only one cure for this to write more; to get words out of your head and on to the page. When you do that, youre ahead, no matter how bad you think you are.
After all, words are just the tools a collection of words is not the end result, it is only the medium through which you work. In the same way that a builder uses bricks and wood to build a house the end result is not about the materials, its about creating a place to live.
As you progress in your writing career, you become less touchy about your words. You have to. Editors hack them around without mercy. Agents get you to rewrite great swathes of text they dont like. Publishers cut out whole sections as irrelevant.
All this hurts a lot.
But after a while, you realize youre being helped. That its not the words that matter so much as what youre trying to communicate.
Once you accept that none of the words actually matter, and have the courage to murder your darlings, you have the makings of the correct professional attitude to ensure your writing career.
This is a tough lesson to learn.
But, as always, the trick is to keep writing!
© Copyright Rob Parnell. All Rights Reserved.
THIS WEEK'S WRITER'S QUOTE:
"Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don't feel I should be doing something else." Gloria Steinem
And of course, how could I not mention:
"Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it whole-heartedly and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings." Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch
Best regards and keep writing!
© Copyright 2002 -
2011 Rob Parnell. All Rights Reserved.