The Danger of Darlings

This is an overdone topic, but one that bears repeating.

As writers we all have those sections of our writing that we just plain adore. Anybody who doesn’t is not human. Or lying. The problem with having these “darlings” is that often we become attached to a particular paragraph or turn of phrase that is within an otherwise pointless section of the novel that needs to be cut. Sometimes we find ourselves trying to manipulate the storyline or beef up the scene so it has a purpose. All because we want to keep that one good bit of writing.

Sometimes it’s not that the scene didn’t originally have a purpose. Sometimes information that is given in a particular scene can be more elegantly given elsewhere under different circumstances and sometimes different characters. Yet we don’t want to remove that piece of description because of that witty one-liner, despite the fact that the setting is introduced in another scene. That one happened to me. In the end I just removed the whole section, including the line I liked. It was easier that way. I might find another place to put it but I’m not going to bend over backwards to do so.

It sounds callous, but often that’s what we need to do. There’s no point distorting parts of a story just so you can give a home to one sentence or paragraph that you like. It’s much, much easier just to let it go. By all means, look for places where you could put it while you’re working on your novel but don’t go to extremes to save it. If it deserves to be dead, then let it be dead. We call this “killing your darlings.” It is effective and many a time it must be done.

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