Cut or keep: When have you faced this and what do you do about it?
I know just what you mean, Tim! I hear the phrase “killing your darlings” — getting rid of the bits we think are so awesome, when in fact they’re probably … not so awesome. I’ve gone to critique sessions and cringed as the critiquer (usually an accomplished writer who knows what they’re talking about) slashes out what I thought were the best parts! But often we get so enamoured by our own voice, we lose perspective. The nice thing is, we don’t have to actually KILL our darlings; we can just save them in a file somewhere on the computer in case they do come in handy someday. I write a lot of poetry and am slowly learning how to work (and work and work and revise and revise) to get the right phrasing, rather than settling for the quick emotional fix that my initial “gushing” onto the page might offer. Does that make sense?
Complete sense, Jeannie. Even though I can be my own best audience, I’m not really the audience I’m shooting for.
I love Stephen King’s ideas about this in his book “On Writing”.
Here’s one of my favorite quotes from the book:
“Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.”
He also talks about how it’s easier to kill (or at least spot) other writer’s darlings than it is to kill your own, so that’s why it’s helpful to have someone you trust to give you an unbiased review. I like to let it marinate a bit before I take to slashing, and I do like to save leftovers “for later” even if they don’t ever get used.
So that’s who invented that expression! I might have known…. 🙂
It’s usually attributed to Faulkner, but the person who actually coined the phrase was Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch in his “On the art of Writing” lectures. It’s pretty much become a colloquialism now though! 😉
Less is more. Blogging is good practise because you have to keep it fairly brief. Mind you, sometimes a blog will prompt me into a comment that is practically a post in itself, but I’ve got a lot better at deleting!
I’ve had those comments-long-as-posts moments too, Sandy.
I face this pretty much every time I write anything longer than a shopping list. My experience in writing funding applications comes in handy here. When you have to explain everything your project does and why a donor should fund it in just one side of A4, you quickly learn to write it longer and then cut, cut and cut some more. It hurts, but it means you end up with solid gold persuasive writing that has no fat on it whatsoever. I try (but don’t always succeed) to apply this ‘less is more’ principle to all my writing.
That is some wisdom born of experience.
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