“In writing, you must kill all your darlings.” ~ William Faulkner
(…who was later quoted by Stephen King, who then got all the credit for the line because people figured he liked killing things in his books…)
Years passed tinkering with versions of my first novel before I understood this one. In fact, as an early draft of Amirah’s Gift, prologue to said novel, sits on the screens of alpha readers, I’m wondering if they’ll discover hidden darlings I need to kill.
What’s a darling and why would I want to kill it?
It’s that favorite thing in your story–a character, a moment, a description, a scene–that means a great deal to you, as the author, but does next to nothing for the reader. Authors can’t help it. We fill our stories with Easter eggs from our own lives. Sometimes it even happens subconsciously. But what has a deep sentimental meaning (or maybe just tickles us) for one can be white noise for another. Those things are the darlings. Killing them is as simple and as hard as hitting Delete.
Why exterminate them? I suppose reasons abound, but my main motivation is getting my writing to a point where there are no wasted words. My goal is to write in such a way that people won’t think blah, blah, blah and fast-forward a few pages to “get to the good stuff”. I want reading to be a discovery not a chore. I want every bite to be worth chewing. It’s an ambitious goal, and I’m no doubt decades away.
So, even as I keep adding plot points, cultural layers, character histories, and context to themes, I know those will shine brightest if I cut out anything obstructing them.
What are some books you liked but found a bit too wordy or full of superfluous details?
What are some books you liked that seemed to make every word count?