Saturday, September 18, 2010

Sept Dare Day 17 - New Great Material - NOOOOOO!

You see, this is why I think the whole "Kill Your Darlings" advice is utterly and totally wrong.

It happens every time. You have some favorite little bit that you think you have to cut because it throws off the story. There may be some real logistical problems in making it work. However.... If you love it, it probably reflects something that the story is really about.

Which means if you put it back in and give it free rein and commit to making it work - maybe even making it the focus of the scene or chapter or section or book - you will probably end up with something a whole lot more interesting than you would have if you'd cut it.

In this case, I just discovered a goldmine in what I thought was the little post-climax "Murder She Wrote" style capper scene. It's going to take longer to write, but I think it will be worth it.

NURTURE your darlings! Go after them! Dig deep into them! To paraphrase Seth Godin: let them be remarkable.

I suppose I should officially extend my book finish date to October 20 (the first anniversary of this blog).

(And I was just reminded that I wrote earlier on this subject. You might want to check out these posts: Nurture Your Darlings and The Dancing Bear Liberation Front. )


Tracy Falbe said...

I think "kill your darlings" is just a provocative phrase used to get people to look and make the offered advice sound important. The advice should be "Make your darlings lovable to readers and kill your crap!"

The Daring Novelist said...

Yeah, exactly. It was originally used by experienced authors to talk about their own editing process, but it was taken up by writing gurus to sound "tough and cool."

You've got to go after your darlings, examine them, play with them, see how far they can go.

And for those who think I'm not talking about the same kind of "darling" they mean - I mean anything that you are reluctant to cut. If you're reluctant, there's a reason. You have an emotional attachment to it - and that's a good thing. Discover the source so you can use it.

Anonymous said...

It makes more sense when you realize it wasn't about things you like in general:

"To begin with, let me plead that you have been told of one or two things which Style is not; which have little or nothing to do with Style, though sometimes vulgarly mistaken for it. Style, for example, is not—can never be—extraneous Ornament. You remember, may be, the Persian lover whom I quoted to you out of Newman: how to convey his passion he sought a professional letter-writer and purchased a vocabulary charged with ornament, wherewith to attract the fair one as with a basket of jewels. Well, in this extraneous, professional, purchased ornamentation, you have something which Style is not: and if you here require a practical rule of me, I will present you with this: '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.'"

(Full thing here:

The Daring Novelist said...

I know where it comes from Mary, and yes, it's a clever and sophisticated philosophical statement... but it's terrible advice.

It's rather like telling a cook who is prone to burn things to cook at a lower temperature.

I supposed I am biased by having heard this first from Kate Wilhelm and Damon Knight, who put it very differently: if you have a bit of exceptionally fine writing in your story, then you either have to raise the rest of the story to that level, or cut it.

If someone's light is not very bright, the correct advice is to work on the light, not to hide it under a barrel.