There's a saying among writers: Be prepared to murder your darlings. No, we're not talking about children, significant others, pets, beloved plants, etc. But sometimes there's a sentence or paragraph that you just loved writing, that you think says so much about your story, your characters, your theme, your whatever. It's poetic, dramatic, a sterling example of your best writing. It's a darling.
And then the manuscript goes into editing and you find your editor doesn't agree with that assessment. "Need this?" "What on earth does this mean???" and "What were you thinking or drinking?" are the sort of comments you might receive. Not encouraging. Not fun.
But necessary. As professional writers, we strive to present our readers with polished stories that flow, without a single paragraph out of place. And so, when a beloved sentence or paragraph just doesn't fit, we must be prepared to murder our darlings. Cut the little buggers out and leave them on the hard drive's floor. And ache at the surgery's aftermath, even as we take comfort in the satisfaction of a book well edited.
For posterity, here's a murdered darling from my upcoming Regency sea story and romance, A Different Sort of Perfect, releasing through Astraea Press early next year. This paragraph had been intended to show that pins-and-needles sensation of anticipation and excitement, without using those words. My editor didn't ask what I was drinking, but she might as well have.
Clara paused at the ladder’s foot and settled herself with a shake. A thrilling inside her, something delicious and devilish, had answered the drum’s martial music, the driving ferocity on the upper deck, the way Captain Fleming had stared into her while they’d talked. As if he yearned to slice her open and examine all those fearful, wonderful organs secreted beneath her skin. Natural philosophers and physicians did that, Harmony said; they’d buy a dead orphan or pauper, a suicide or hanged gallows thief, and peer underneath the chaste skin to the grisly bits below. If one of them cut into her now, surely he’d find a new and extraordinary layer that no one had ever seen before, something rather like a luscious pin cushion or a sensitive, inverted hedgehog. No one could possibly have ever felt this way before, angry, fearful, hot and cold and trembly, like a snowfield ablaze. Without warning, she shivered all over.
Writers, have you saved clippings of your murdered darlings? Send them to me at 1940 [dot] mysterywriter [at] gmail [dot] com. Include a copy of your cover and a buy link to the finished, published book, and I'll post them as I receive them.
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