Article: Murder Your Darlings

Advice by James Patrick Kelly on trimming wastage from one's masterpiece.

It's not for the timid.

Brave souls can go to

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
camidon's picture

Agree Completely! Cut! Cut! Cut! :smt065

James Patrick Kelly is one of the modern writers I appreciate. I agree with what he says completely. I go through drafts and cut chapters, pages, paragrapshs and words. The first rewrite of my latest novel pared it down 7,000 words, (>9%) and I'm sure that's not it. In my first book, I wound up deleting the first and last chapter and now it flows so much smoother. A writer must not be afraid to yield the ax. Even after these cuts, I'm sure there are more.

When I first started writing, I felt my work was always so hollow after the first draft, and often I still feel that way. Slowly, I'm learning it's not the quantity, but the quality of the prose that's important. Every word DOES matter, and if a writer says otherwise then they are either deluding themselves, total amateurs, or frauds.

One of the things I value most from critiques of these groups is when critters slice away the layers of my unnecessary prose. It's so much easier to see something doesn't belong if someone else whose opinion your respect slices it for you. (Greg, where are you now?)

This is also a dead give away for true beginners--those that aren't willing to cut, cut, cut, and become defensive at the suggestion. I've started an in-person group in my area, and have discovered two decent writers with talent, both fairly new, and one of them is always so defensive about any comments. I'm curious to watch her over time and see if that changes as the rejections pile up.

Lastly, I've discvoered, if something just feels wrong, and I can't think of a decent way to fix it, 99% of the time the answer is to delete it. If you can't figure out how to say it, then it wasn't important.

Read this, all writers who aspire for greater things.

Hmmm. This seems to have become a bloated post. Maybe I need to trim out a paragraph or too...


Life is a lot like caving: Most of the time you grope around in the dark.