How to Kill Your Darlings–without Shedding Tears

13 Mar

Writer, have you ever had to delete entire sections of your manuscript?011

If so, I’m glad our paths have crossed.

It’s difficult to kill our darlings. We’re emotionally attached to them. Our characters are so charming, difficult, snarky, troubled, spunky, nerdy or needy that we can’t bear the thought of deleting something they experience or say. The same applies to our setting, dialogue, and plot.

Another reason it’s difficult to kill darlings is because we’re wired to write, not delete. We type legions of words to advance the story. Which is ironic, because darlings don’t propel, they hinder.

file8451253073336Imagine you have a vegetable garden. If you remove the pesky, nutrient-sucking weeds, your garden will yield a bountiful harvest.

Now picture a garden that’s consumed in the underbrush.

That’s the image to recall when you’re tempted to let your darlings live. You can’t find the vegetables if you’re wading through weeds.


How to kill your darlings:
Pretend they never existed. Once they’re gone, write something better.
Save them in a file. If you miss them, you can go back and visit.
Honor the dead. Thank your darlings for teaching you how not to write.
Trust the wisdom of critique partners. If multiple editors advise it, perform the execution.

~ Jericha Kingston

Jericha creates fresh, relatable characters who struggle against impervious odds. She’s the winner of the 2015 Prompt Response contest, the 2013 Touched by Love Award contest (Short Contemporary), the 2nd place winner in the 2013 Laurie contest (Inspirational), and a Finalist in the 2012 and 2013 ACFW First Impressions contest (Historical and Romance). Jericha’s book, Waiting for Lily Bloom, released in 2014 from Pelican Book Group.


Posted by on March 13, 2015 in editing, Jericha Kingston, Writing


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8 responses to “How to Kill Your Darlings–without Shedding Tears

  1. Pegg Thomas

    March 13, 2015 at 9:34 am

    The execution … HAHAHAHA! Yeah, that’s about it!


  2. Robin Patchen

    March 13, 2015 at 9:36 am

    Oh, it’s the hardest thing to do! I love Scrivener, because I can save those darlings in the file, just in case I need them again. (I never do.)


    • jerichakingston

      March 13, 2015 at 10:53 am

      I know what you mean, Robin. It’s so tough because we equate darlings with loss. Wasted time and energy. There’s nothing worse. Especially when those darlings were just so…perfect.


  3. candicesuepatterson

    March 13, 2015 at 10:24 am

    Deleting whole scenes IS SO HARD! But like you said, sometimes it has to be done. In the end, it’s always best.


    • jerichakingston

      March 13, 2015 at 10:54 am

      Candice, I’m experiencing the loss of a few scenes now. I commiserate!


  4. Marge Wiebe

    March 13, 2015 at 3:22 pm

    I save any and all deleted scenes. It just makes me feel better. 😀 Actually, I did delete one scene early on in my current WIP, and it’s the only time I’ve ever been sure I would have re-used something. It still drives me up the wall. I’ve tried to rewrite it so I’d have peace of mind in never using it (I know, right!?), but that darling is gone for good.


    • jerichakingston

      March 13, 2015 at 5:33 pm

      Oh, Marge! It’s so hard to say goodbye! *Waving a white hanky…sniff, sniff*



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