39. Troubleshooting Craft: Kill Your Darlings
This week Kelly and JJ embark on their series on troubleshooting writing craft issues. In this episode, they discuss the adage "Kill your darlings": what it means, how to identify it, and how to fix it. Also, we're apparently in the midst of the summer doldrums, so not a lot of reading or recommendations this week.
Kill Your Darlings, and Some Trees by E. C. Myers
Kill Your Darlings by Erin Bowman
"Darlings" as we've defined it is anything the writer loves that does not contribute in any meaningful way to the novel.
"Darlings" can be as macro as premise/storylines/characters or as micro as a pretty bit of prose you just like.
"Darlings" can be categorized into three categories: Big Picture, Scene, Sentence.
How to identify Big Picture darlings
When you are working too hard to make an element fit (e.g. JJ having to sit down and engineer situations for a third "darling" character to fit in with the rest of the story)
When you keep forgetting said element exists and have to keep going back to include it
How to identify Scene darlings
This usually shakes out in revision, but if a scene does not move the story forward plot-wise or character-wise, it should go.
Ideally, all scenes should do both, and if possible, find ways to combine scenes so that they do both.
How to identify Sentence darlings
READ YOUR WORK ALOUD
Reading your work aloud illuminates things about your manuscript that you wouldn't otherwise notice: the length of your sentences, their rhythm, any repetition, etc. The other thing it illuminates is whether or not that pretty sentence you wrote actually makes sense.
What We're Reading/Books Discussed
The Eye of Argon by Jim Theis
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey
Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning
Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore
What We're Working On
Kelly is still working on her YA novel.
JJ is working on book 2 and a ton of promotional stuff for Wintersong.
Off Menu Recommendations
That's all for this week! Next week we'll be talking about the opposite to Kill Your Darlings—how to EXPAND. As always, if you have any questions or comments, feel free to sound off in the comments!