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On ‘Killing Your Darlings’, by Rebecca Raisin

We’re lucky as writers to live in this day and age. We don’t have to scribe in stone, or write on notebooks with blue carbon paper gently placed underneath to duplicate our work. We can save, backup to disc, USB, print, send it up to the clouds, and a wealth of other things my technologically inadequate mind doesn’t even know about. So with this knowledge I’ve tackled my rewrites. All will not be lost when I attempt to kill my darlings.

I have saved my first, and much loved copy of Mexican Kimono, emailed it to myself, printed it out for posterity, and given myself a big ol’ invisible pat on the back and some kind words of encouragement.

Enough ambling, enough indecision. It’s time to GET SERIOUS. After all, this is what it is all about: progression, rewriting and learning some valuable lessons along the way. What was there to lose if I erased blocks of writing that didn’t move the story forward? My characters are great; full of life and vitality, but what are they there for, if they don’t move the plot along, no matter how attached I am to them, or how funny I think their quirks are?

This long process of editing has had me scratching my head in confusion, and emailing other writers, saying, Help! I’m bamboozled, I’m stuck! But inevitably, you edit alone. I know what needs to be done. I know the parts that don’t mesh or the sections I skim past…’s those parts…they need to go.

So with that firmly in mind, and a clarity I didn’t have two weeks ago, I’ve started to look at Mexican Kimono with my editor’s hat placed firmly on my head. The parts I love and can’t bear to delete, maybe they’re just funny to me? Maybe they have no right being there, no matter how much I’m attached to them. Kill your darlings, plays over in my mind like a mantra, until eventually I acquiesce. After all, I have my original copy, up there in those fluffy white clouds.

What I battle with now is time. Usually I can write with a party going on behind me; I’m in the zone, and it doesn’t bother me in the slightest. I’ve found with editing and constant revision I need to immerse myself and focus, in absolute quiet. I have been so afraid to press backspace, wondering if I’m killing off the best parts. After a week or two of jittery pondering, and second guessing myself, I found my way.

Simply put, I got tough with myself. And I started at the start – the very first line, and read it like I was someone else. Immediately I found an error on the first page. How could I have missed that so many times? I’m taking it slowly. I’ve printed it out again, and I’m going to slash lines and add depth to the plot. Sound hard? It’s surprising how easy it is when you’re honest with yourself.

Kill your darlings, I dare you.

Here is an interesting blog post that explains the meaning of the literary expression, “Kill your darlings.”


Rebecca Raisin bio page

Stein on Writing: A Master Editor of Some of the Most Successful Writers of Our Century Shares His Craft Techniques and StrategiesHow to Grow a NovelThe Last BoyfriendLast SummerThe Fortunes of Ruby WhiteIf Books Could KillPretty Twisted

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