Where Ladybugs Roar

Confessions and Passions of a Compulsive Writer

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Rest In Peace, Darlings. I loved you best.

I know what you're thinking.... How long did it take Wendy to sketch that tombstone just for this post? LOL. I know, but seriously, it was fun and I didn't want to use an actual tombstone--partly, because it's insensitive and tacky but, mostly, because I couldn't find one I liked.

"Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it--wholeheartedly--and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings." Arthur Quiller Couch

So, I'm faced with the ugly process of killing darlings today in order to get Scorched ready for ABNA. Ugh. I don't want to do it. I really don't. The only way I'm going to be able to do it is to create a new manuscript entirely and leave a copy of my full-bodied Scorched behind. Sob. Sniff. I know. I know. It has to happen. It'll be better for it.

I just need a moment. I swear... just a moment.

Okay. I'm ready. Deep breath. Seriously, I can do this. I can cut into the beginning until I find the right hook. Really. Maybe. I can actually look at GwOE and Diana's beta critiques without weeping openly. (BTW, they word-for-word agreed that the hook came too late... among other things.)

I can do this.

I found a fairly amazing blog post on this subject, btw. I'm snagging a bit for your reading pleasure, but the whole thing is brilliance on a stick. It's a really cool method of killing darlings:

Here's a writing tip some of you might be able to use: After finishing your first draft, find the highlighting tool in your word processor and then start reading, using the highlighter to indicate all of the sentences, paragraphs, and scenes that are absolutely essential to your story. (I use a yellow highlighter to remind myself that those parts of the story are "golden.") When you finish, delete everything that isn't highlighted. Save it in a Dead Darlings file if that makes you feel better, but I predict that after a while you'll stop bothering with that.

Now you're left with nothing but story. Your manuscript is still in very rough form, but there's not a boring bit in there because you've taken all of the irrelevant stuff out. Now you're ready to revise and polish. I go through many drafts on a book, so I do a highlighting pass after finishing my first draft, then do it again when I'm nearly finished with the manuscript. After some more tweaking and polishing, I use the highlighting tool a third and final time. When the manuscript is all golden, I'm finished. (Two notes: First, the highlighter is invaluable to me because except during that first pass, I'm not starting at Page One and progressing to the end of the manuscript. I jump around, working on whatever scenes and chapters I'm in the mood to work on. The highlighting tells me what I've finished and what still needs to be looked at. And second, on the last highlighting run I'm just deleting words and sentences, not whole paragraphs and scenes. It's all pretty painless by that time.)


  1. I love that drawing Wendy and I love that you drew it for this post. I'm not ready to kill my darlings yet. Still trying to get my darlings on the page. Highlighter is a great idea. From experience Diana's critiques are brutal, but so right on. Good luck!

  2. Thanks for the tips, Wendy! I'll have to try the highlighting tip.

    Good luck getting Scorched "golden"!

  3. Killing your darlings hurts, but it makes your manuscript so much better. It's worth it, like a polio shot! :)

  4. Mary, thanks... but a half an hour on a blog sketch is a little silly. Then again, I'm entirely silly, so there you go. Thanks for wishing me good luck.

    Tere, thanks. I got snagged on my WIP--getting down just a scene. I need to get to work on Scorched. I like to think I'm not procrastinating, but... uh... I might be.

    Stephanie, I know. It's best just to squint and bite down on a stick.

  5. I'm sorry you're going to have to kill your babies -hugs-

    You can do it!

  6. Good luck! And I like your tombstone.

    P.S. I haven't even begun reading...had some family stuff happening. But ice is moving in this week--perfect for reading!!

  7. you, my dear, are what is brillance on a stick!