Goodbye, My Darling

There’s a fabled piece of writing advice attributed to William Faulkner: “Kill your darlings.” It means, “get rid of the parts of your story you love most if they aren’t serving the story.” Tonight, I killed a darling. In fact, I killed my favorite darling.

 Me, trying to hold onto my darling.  Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images Entertainment / Getty Images

Me, trying to hold onto my darling.

Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images Entertainment / Getty Images

Five years ago, the main character in my current WIP (work-in-progress) introduced himself to me. I could see him vividly. His voice was crystal clear. His surroundings, sharp.

I was working on another novel at that time, so I fought him off. Told him to wait his turn. But he’s an ornery one and kept yapping at me, kept insisting I tell his story. When I finally sat down to do just that, that introduction became the first scene in my novel.

As the WIP developed, that scene stayed, draft after draft. I tweaked it as the story changed. Trimmed this. Added that. Traded this word for that one. But essentially, the scene remained the same.

For the last month, I’ve been working on Draft 6 of my WIP, what I hope will be the last draft before I start querying literary agents. As I’ve worked on these revisions, I’ve realized that that darling, that scene, that whole first chapter, was slowing down my story. It had to go.

I love that scene and that chapter—they’re my darlings!—so I resisted. I tried to find ways to change them to make them work. I tried and tried and tried, as relentless as Wile E. Coyote hunting Roadrunner and with about the same success rate.

Tonight I realized there was just no way that chapter would work—except maybe as an extra here on this blog when I finally get the book published. So I took out my scissors and snipped off the whole thing. My darling, killed. The whole first chapter, GONE.

I’m a sad little murderer tonight, mourning my dead darling, but my story is feeling much better. And that’s what really matters.