Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Being an Author: Editing II - Killing Your Darlings.

It's the writer's saying that in editorial you should kill your darlings.

It means 'to oust out the bits you like'. Like, really like.

Initially, perhaps historically, the phrase was to mean that you should get rid of the bits you really like because no matter how bad they are you won't be able to see it. They are your darlings. (Out of context: One's children are always little angels. No matter what they do)

Sometimes, however, these days, we see the statement as to kill off the bits you like, just because they cannot be as good as you think them to be.

Do you see the difference in the two understandings of the same phrase? One suggests that your darlings may not be good. The other, that they cannot be good.

So should we truly 'kill of our darlings'?

I write horror. Hopefully you'd noticed. I also write some fantasy, sci-fi, and even YA. This you may not have noticed. I'm going to take a story that you will not have read that I wrote sometime ago.

It's called, "Traffic." I wrote it a little under three years ago. These days it resides in the 'Binned until further Notice' folder. Why?

Because I love it. It's schmaltzy. It's a love letter to Gene Roddenberry and George Lucas. It's hokum sci-fi space opera material.

And possibly, just possibly, it sucks donkey nuts.

I know the saying isn't supposed to refer to a whole story. But I fear it's true. It's got everything in it, and I haven't even read it in maybe 18 months. But it's still one of my best stories. The rose-tinted spectacles are on.

Can I sell it?

No. (Donkey nuts, remember). But I don't mind. It's a little piece of me that's mine. I can share it with who I want. It's one of those, 'little secret' stories.  I might share it with you if you ask. But most people... well, I can decline politely, can I not?

But that doesn't pay the rent, does it?

Does this then prove that our darlings must be killed? I've just placed evidence down that proves my 'darling' is in the way of the sale. The answer is...

... maybe?

There is no answer to this. There is only me asking you to realize that a darling may get the story canned. 'Time Protects the Innocent' (Static Movement: Cedar Chest), is full of darlings. I've got a whole section in that baby about how nice hamburgers are. In a horror story. With no context. It's a darling. Static Movement liked it too. It's published.

So kill your darlings... if you want to.

'Til next time...

No comments:

Post a Comment