Just so you know, I wanted to find a picture of Brutus killing Caesar, as that seemed more appropriate, but I couldn’t find a good one.
We all have to do it at some point. Maybe it’s a realization you’ve come to on your own, or something your critique partners have pointed out. Sometimes it comes as part of revisions from an industry professional, such as an agent or an editor.
It’s a favorite scene – plot thread – line of dialogue – maybe even a character. But it’s got to go for the good of the story. What do you do?
The only way to get over killing your darlings is to write new darlings. Don’t strip away elements and leave your manuscript ravished and scarred. Even if the whole purpose of cutting is to reduce word count, you still have to patch the hole. And it doesn’t have to be an ugly patch — the kind where you slather in goop, let it dry, sand it, and paint over it.
Make it beautiful. Make it witty. Re-envision that scene or write a better line of dialogue. If you have to cut a character, take a tiny shred from that person and implant it into somebody else. Write something you love more than the thing you cut.
Earlier this week, I turned in what had to be my eighth draft of THE EIGHTH DAY. (Which is kind of fitting.) In every successive draft, I know I cut something I loved, something it was painful to let go of.
Darned if I can remember what they all were, because I love each new version better.
Maybe we need to stop talking about “killing our darlings” and refer to it as “paring back unnecessary branches and encouraging the growth of award-winning blooms.”
Now, if only I can remember that as I face some necessary bloodshed (and rebuilding) in my draft of the second book of the series …