Don’t worry, my children are safe, just in case any of you haven’t heard the phrase that inspired the title of this post. I’m not actually going to kill anyone, I promise.
I pour words on the page when I write. I litter the paragraphs with descriptions, back story, and world building details that no one but me actually needs to know. This is my method. I am not a plotter. I have two semi-finished (is a book ever REALLY finished?) novels at this point, and a hodgepodge of a sequel. For both of my “finished” novels, I began with an idea and no clue where that idea would take me. So for me, my first draft really is my chance to tell myself the story (trademark some other author. I didn’t coin that. I also don’t remember who did. Sorry!)
Much like my kids pour their tub of LEGOs on the floor, I dump all of my thoughts out on the page, just a big old mess of words, the more the better. Then at some point later in the game, I have to get really enthusiastic with the delete button and cut half of those words out. Two adjectives? Cut one, or maybe both. A lovely description of a sunset, where the words flow like poetry but it’s slowing down the action? Cut, cut, cut.
This is what it means to kill your darlings. And it’s tough. My writing teacher, the fabulous Kristie Smeltzer, doesn’t sugarcoat the need to kill darlings frequently and without pity, but she was kind enough to introduce me to the concept of a darlings file. It’s exactly what it sounds like- a file, separate from the story, where I can cut and past all my darlings, and leave them there, all alone. (It hurts just to think about. Sorry, babies. Mommy still loves you.) By telling myself (ahem, lying to myself) that I’m just saving them for later, it gives me the strength to cut them out of the story.
That being said, I just committed a horrible massacre of the prologue for No Man’s Land. And who knows, maybe it will be resurrected in a future draft, but for now, it’s gone from my manuscript, and residing HERE. Enjoy. After all, if you enjoy reading it, then maybe the darling’s death was not in vain.