We all
have our little darlings, words, lines, scenes, chapters, that we love. Then a
critique partner or an editor comes along and slashes a line right through
them. Feedback is provided, such as: episodic, redundant, doesn’t have anything
to do with the story, takes away from the immediacy of the scene … and many,
many other disheartening reasons why the darlings have to be destroyed.
As the
one who gave birth to the darling, an author often attempts to do everything
she can to save them. She holds them up and claims their cuteness, their
intelligence, even their entertainment value. Even when she can’t explain how
they are necessary to the story, an author might cling to them with all her
might.
The
truth is, in fiction, we can’t afford to waste a single word. They must be
integral to the story, or they must be slashed.
When
examining a manuscript for these darlings, it is good to approach them with
that thought in mind. Are they necessary or is it just something that the
author likes?
If it’s
something that the author likes, then there are two options: make it integral
to the story or take it out.
Is the author
holding on to characters that really don’t belong? There are three options:
rework the story to make them count, save them for another novel, or get rid of
them.
Is the
scene/location a “must-have” even though it’s a rabbit trail for a million
reasons that only the author knows? Two options exist: Get the bunny on the
right trail and make the scene/location necessary to the story, or stop chasing
the rabbit and stay on the right path.
Are the
words just perfect prose whose loss would be a disservice to humanity? One
option here. Take the first step in getting over yourself and delete it.
I know
this is some tough talk, but as one who loves to hold on to my own darling
words, scenes, and chapters, sometimes it takes tough love to help me to get
rid of them.
Happy
editing.

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