The Day the Darlings Died
Once again, I sit looking out over Colvos Passage, tears dripping onto my keyboard, blood dripping off the knife. Once again, I killed them, the darlings in my new book. Just like in all previous books, they had to go. I think William Falkner is given credit for the term, “kill your darlings,” advising writers to “get rid of your most precious, self indulgent passages, for the good of your literary work.” There are others who take credit; Ginsberg, Welty, Oscar Wilde. It matters not. Anyone who writes knows the agony.
In my first published book, ChinAlive, there were two chapters I especially agonized over. These were the two that were revised and revised, and polished, and loved, and in the long run, did not move the story along. You’re wrong if you think I noticed. Two very astute readers, people who didn’t care if I ever spoke to them again, made the call. I didn’t have to kill the chapters, but I did. I knew the heartless editors were right. And so, in every book it happens. Sometimes you just can’t tell until the completed book is outlined and read thoroughly, and dispassionately. The blade then comes out, ready to sink into the authors heart.
The good news is that this time around, I wielded the knife. This time I took it out and did the deed. Bye bye darlings. There is a silver lining; with every death I become a better writer–I hope–then the dead darlings are safely tucked away in a file, to be seen someday in a writing seminar where students are taught to develop a thick skin. The earlier they learn, the better.