Kill Your Darlings

Kill Your Darlings

July 19, 2021

“In writing, you must kill all your darlings.“ William Faulkner

Part of the grueling writing process is revision, which means cutting. Many times an author needs to remove a scene or character they love because it simply doesn't work for the overall story. This can sometimes be painful, especially when a lot of emotion and time was spent.

On the Art of Writing book cover

The original quote was from Arthur Quiller-Couch. He said, “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.”

Sounds rough, doesn't it? But these little darlings can become a distraction to the reader

Which leads me to our Living Write Tip #5 - Kill Your Darlings.

The "darlings" in my writing are those ideas that don't move the story forward or distract the reader. When parenting two teenagers, who had their noses constantly an inch from their phones, my husband and I would ask if they were adding any value to their lives. Although they'd insisted that playing Pokémon GO© was valuable, it was distracting them from more important things that would improve their lives, like studying for the ACT (not that I'm bitter 😜).

But, so it is with me. For example, as I try to build my author platform, I find myself on social media, a lot. And, yes, it is necessary, but is my time spent there taking me away from something more valuable, like time with my husband or kids?

I found an article on how to eliminate unhealthy distractions, by Emma Johnson in Success Magazine, 2016. To read the entire piece, click here.

4 Ways to Remove Distractions from Your Life

  1. Work cartoon

    Put the Tech Down. Our phones and computers are our biggest distraction, for sure. Did you know that "a recent study found that the average human attention span has fallen from 12 seconds in 2000 (or around the time smartphones hit the scene) to eight seconds today. In comparison, scientists believe that the goldfish has an attention span of nine seconds." (Digital Information World).

    Yikes! So, to remove this one (and be more focused than a fish), we simply need to put down our phones or turn off our computers. Easier said then done, I know.

  2. Social media icons

    Block Notifications. This is a simple trick and could really help you stay on task. You don't need to know every time someone comments on Instagram or Facebook. Pick a few of your favorite apps and silence the notifications. Really, give it a try.

  3. Knock off the most dreaded duties first. Johnson suggests to "get it off your to-do list and out of your mind, freeing you to be productive." All though I do agree with her, I also don't like starting my day with unpleasant activities. Finding a balance between the two might work.

  4. Minimize the Negativity. In a previous post about building confidence, I mentioned that we need to be around people who encourage us. Johnson says, "Surround yourself with those who are positive, focused, productive and ambitious."

Killing your darlings requires sacrifice for the overall story, just like removing distractions might be hard and feel like a sacrifice. But your mental health will be better and your relationships will be stronger. Sounds like a win to me.

What about you? Do you struggle with any of the distractions above? Do you have any advice on how to "kill your darlings?"

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