Kill Your Darlings

Without a doubt, Stephen King is one of the most prolific authors of the past few decades. And you know what? I’ve never read a single book of his. Not a one. His genre of writing doesn’t appeal to me, but his advice concerning writing is stellar, and I *almost* always use it. I’m tempted to pick up one of his books and read it just to see how great he writes, but then I’ll be laden with horrific nightmares, sleepless nights, and a frightful sensation that someone is watching me. I’m a wimp, and I know it. I get the same way after I’ve seen a scary movie. 

The first horror movie I ever saw was The Shining. Ironic, isn’t it? I was traumatized. Then we watched Pet Cemetery (against my will). I never looked at my cat the same way again. *Shudder* Now I never watch scary movies. I’m too big of a baby, and I’m absolutely fine with it. Sorry for the veer off topic. Back to Stephen.

One of his more popular quotes on writing leaves me squirming and sweating on my overflowing, chocolate brown, microfiber couch/desk/dream station.

“Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.” 
― Stephen KingOn Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

Yeesh!!! Dang, Stephen, you’re harsh.

Now, I’m sure we have to put this in context. He writes horror books, mostly. So, of course, killing people off is essential to plot and anticipation and suspense. I think, though, if I put his advice in the context of editing, then it makes complete sense.

I’ve been in the throes of editing for the past week with my middle grade fantasy series, heavily tearing out all unnecessary parts of my first book. It started out over 120,000 words a year ago, and with each rewrite, edit, revision, etc, it gets shorter and cleaner, but some of the parts I’m removing really is like opening a vein and letting all the lifeblood of my dreams stream forth.

There are little quotes from characters, a delicious description that I love, backstory, etc, that makes me want to giggle and screech and smile so wide everybody would think I was up to something evil.

But in the process of removing the extraneous fluff (whimper), it really has streamlined the text, and if a future editor feels I’m missing something, I’ll always have it in my back pocket to insert into the story. *Dance for joy!*

And he’s right that it breaks my little egocentric scribbler’s heart to do it. I hate doing it. Absolutely loathe it. But I have to admit that he’s right, dang it, and my book is only getting better. The problem is that it started over 400 pages long, and it’s taking me a long time to muddle through what should and should not be included. I’m impatient. I’ve been editing this beast (I say with love) for over a year, and I want it to be done already! 

But you know what? I don’t think I’ll ever be 100% happy with it. J.R.R. Tolkien said he wished he could have rewritten his masterpiece at least one more time before it was published, but it didn’t happen. So I guess I’m in good company.

This editing is going to drive me nutty. 

On the flip side, if anyone has recommendations for a Stephen King book that won’t leave me huddling under my blankets for safety (and remember I’m a big scaredy-cat), then please share! He has such amazing things to say about writing, I feel almost ashamed that I haven’t read any of his stuff.

Thanks for visiting and happy writing! (Editing, revising, killing, killing, killing!!!)


“Just remember that Dumbo didn’t need the feather; the magic was in him. ” 
― Stephen KingOn Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

“In many cases when a reader puts a story aside because it ‘got boring,’ the boredom arose because the writer grew enchanted with his powers of description and lost sight of his priority, which is to keep the ball rolling.” 
― Stephen KingOn Writing: A Memoir of the Craft


25 thoughts on “Kill Your Darlings

  1. LOL! If you decide to venture into one of his books, just think of it as “research” and try to ignore the scary stuff that way. 😉 Here’s another one of his quotes for you which is one of my favorites: “Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s.” Have a great weekend! 😀

  2. I own and have heavily annotated “On Writing,” but Steve and I part company on this point. I say, “No More Pogroms on Parts of Speech.” If it makes me feel good to write it, it stays. I don’t read King’s novels, either – I’m Squeamish and Proud of It!

  3. I’ve never read ‘On Writing’, but so many people recommend it that I think I really should. (Although I have picked up bits and pieces of it re-quoted elsewhere – like here.) I’ve only read two Stephen King books – IT (which is definitely Horror with a capital H, so not for you I feel!), and The Dead Zone (which I don’t remember being especially horrific, though a bit creepy in places, and might be worth you trying). He is a very good writer but I haven’t read any more of his books because horror is not a genre I’m particularly in to. Plus most of his books are quite long, and for me to be tempted to read anything very big I really need to be convinced I’ll love it.

    • Thanks for the recommendation! I’ll have to check it out. I’m not big into horror, my imagination is active enough without needing additional ammunition to freak myself out. 🙂 Thanks for visiting and commenting!

  4. Forgot to say – good luck with the editing. Yes it’s hard work, but so important as you know. And I find it kind of satisfying when I step back and see the visible improvement that almost always results. But some things are hard to cut, and often it takes me two or three drafts before I realise that something I like doesn’t really need to be there .. and so it probably shouldn’t be.

    • Yes, I’m finding how much more fluid the writing is when I get down to the nitty-gritty of editing and expunge everything that doesn’t really need to be there. But I still have an enormous file of edits, so my ‘darlings’ haven’t really gone anywhere. And they’ll live forever in my imagination. Thanks for the encouragement! It’s always needed.

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