Killing Your Darlings

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By Kariss Lynch

“Quoting the great William Faulkner, in writing you must be willing to kill your darlings,” my hippie poetry professor imparted one class. I remember thinking he was crazy. If you really think a scene or a line is that great in your story, why in the world would you cut it? Over the years, I believe his counsel was some of the best writing advice I ever received. Because the truth is, some of my favorite pieces of writing just don’t fit in a particular story. But there’s a fine balance to this painful removal, an art really, one I’m still learning but coming to appreciate.

  1. Write like you mean it.

The first step in killing my darlings is loving and including all my darlings in my current work in progress. I don’t edit when I write, which can often leave a very messy draft. But my best writing happens when I write unfiltered, when I let myself feel and record whatever necessary in that moment. Sometimes my feelings or what I want to write doesn’t fit the overall story when I look later, but that isn’t important in the moment. What matters is capturing a story, the story in all its glory.

  1. Edit like you didn’t write it.

I have to edit with a different mindset, which is why I often don’t combine writing and editing days. I can only kill my darlings, all the special scenes and lines, when I remove myself from the emotion and read through an objective perspective. Does this darling fit? Does it add to the story and move it forward? Does it tell you something new about the character? Will it matter to the reader, or does it only matter to me in the moment in which I wrote it? Killing my darlings allows me to create a darling of a story.

  1. Remove what shouldn’t make it.

The first time I had to cut a particularly special scene, I argued with my editor. I argued with myself. I provided every reason why I shouldn’t cut my beautiful darling. And finally, I took the painful step. When I read through the scene again, the story was better and I had a shiny darling to play with later. Every time I’ve followed this process since, it’s become easier and easier until I’m excited to cut these gems. When I edit objectively and cut these scenes and lines, I have found it is highly likely that at some point that darling will matter and improve another story. I keep a word document on my computer and a notes sheet on my phone with all the darlings my heart desires, and they’ve made it in books, poems, and everything in between.

Killing my darlings has stretched my writing muscles. This process has made me better, it’s made me more objective, tougher, and more in touch with my stories, because nothing special removed ever truly dies. It simply finds a different home, a better home where it thrives.

Why would you ever kill your darlings when writing and editing? @Kariss_Lynch #ACFWBlogs #amwriting Click To Tweet

Kariss Lynch is the author of the Heart of a Warrior series and writes contemporary romance about characters with big dreams, adventurous hearts, and enduring hope. In her free time, she hangs out with her family and friends, explores the great outdoors, and tries not to plot five stories at once. Connect with her at


Comments 2

  1. I like this mindset so much. I know that authors often refer to books as being their babies (and to an extent, it’s true), but if we stick with the baby analogy, then we need to do what’s best for those babies and teach hard lessons (edit and cut) to make them grow up to be the best versions they can be.

    Writing and editing do require two different sides of the brain!

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