KILL YOUR DARLINGS

I recently had the joy of having my short story edited before being published. I say joy because from it I was able to learn ways to improve my writing, structure my sentences for greater effect, and generally trim away the fat. In some incidences I re-read what I had originally written and wondered how I missed such a writing blunder. I was embarrassed the editor had read the clumsy clauses that now, with the clarity of hindsight, blazed from the page like a toddler’s scribblings.

Having someone edit your work is a funny thing. When someone asks to read my writing I offer it up immediately. I slip it into their hands with a greedy smile and await their feedback with a tapping foot. I love hearing someone’s perspective on what I’ve written; part of this is the stroking of my ego, but more accurately it’s because I love to talk about writing. Hearing what people took from it, what was intentional, and more fascinating, what wasn’t, is a source of endless joy.

It’s when they tilt their head to the side and say, ‘This bit, though. I don’t know. I would have…’, that my shoulders tense.

I want their suggestions, I really do, but it seems an involuntary reaction to get defensive. A small part of me hisses and huddles around my work like protective mother cat.

This attitude, of course, is ridiculous. Feedback, providing it’s not the moronic grunting you find at the bottom of a youtube clip, is always helpful. A suggestion allows you to look at your writing from another perspective. As long as you’re able to maintain your work as a fluid, changing thing, alterations should be easy. Quite often the change is necessary. It doesn’t matter how cleverly you think you’ve worded a piece of writing, if a reader can’t understand what you’ve written, it has to go.

Of course, you won’t always agree with certain edits, but even this is beneficial. It forces you to reevaluate your work, twist it around in your head and see what it looks like from a different angle. If you don’t like the way it looks then it at least leaves you more confident in the way you originally wrote it.

By the end of the editing process, when you’ve crammed away the defensive little voice and actually considered the changes, more often than not you have a better piece of writing at the end. And that’s a good thing.

I guess the moral of this post is to be open to changes, to be nice to your editors, and, when necessary, kill your darlings.

It feels wrong, but in the long run it’s the right thing to do.

I hear it gets easier with time.

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4 comments

  1. jessicabakerromance · May 2, 2012

    I hate having to kill my darlings, but sometimes needs must. You have to be brave to write.

    • jonathanrobb · May 2, 2012

      Haha, well said. It takes courage to wield a pen 🙂

  2. Zen · May 2, 2012

    I know the defensive attitude all too well, haha. I know criticism and different perspectives are a huge help, but I can’t always accept them with a huge smile. Such is the ego of writers. xD

  3. scribblingadvocate · May 2, 2012

    I find comments difficult to accept, but often when I go away and think about it, I realise there is some truth in the criticism and I alter my writing to take account of them.

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