Kill Your Darlings (An IWSG Post)

It’s the first Wednesday of the month, which means it’s time for another action-packed installment of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.

(If you’re new to the IWSG and looking for additional information and/or a complete list of participants, please click on the above link…)

This month’s awesome co-hosts are PJ Colando, J Lenni Dorner, Deniz Bevan, Kim Lajevardi, Natalie Aguirre, and Louise-Fundy Blue.

This month’s (optional) question asks, “If you could choose one author, living or dead, to be your beta partner, who would it be and why?”

But I’m going to skip the question to instead ramble on about…well, killing our darlings. Or, you know, killing my darlings anyway. You can kill your own darlings.

This year is, strangely, the first year in…well, ever, that I’ve even come close to following the writing schedule I set for myself at the beginning of the year. Meaning, during which months I would work on what WIPs and when those WIPs would be finished and so on and so forth. It’s loosely sketched out in January and traditionally has fallen apart by March. It is then endlessly revised throughout the rest of the year to reflect my actual progress (or lack thereof…) on each project.

But this year I haven’t had to revise that much (and even managed to publish a book), which means that over the next two months, my main writing focus will be on finishing the first draft of Full Circle (aka, Book Three in my fantasy series).

What I have had to revise, however, is my confidence in my ability to actually do this. For a while, it seemed as though I was getting closer to the end, but now I’m kind of…stuck toward the end of the second act. And the more time I spend staring at my computer monitor and/or storyboard, the more I fear I may have to do the unthinkable…

Kill my darlings.

I do assume that anyone reading this post is familiar with this concept, but in the event that it’s new to you, killing your darlings is when writers cut things they love from their manuscripts. It could be a beloved character, a plot line, a snarky dialogue exchange, some quirk you bestowed upon a character that’s now causing more problems than it’s worth, whatever. It’s stuff that we, as writers, love and cling to and try everything we can think of to make it work in our WIPs because we don’t want to get rid of it.

In my case, it’s most often dialogue (you know it’s not killing characters. I love to kill characters.). I love writing dialogue and will occasionally (translation: always) get carried away when writing it. Then it occasionally (translation: always) takes me a few rounds of revisions to accept the fact that maybe—just maybe—my characters don’t need to have a five-paged conversation about goats when goats serve absolutely no purpose in the story whatsoever.

(Side note: some of you know why I’m mentioning goats here, and to those of you I say…THAT STUPID CONVERSATION IS STILL IN THIS STUPID WIP.)

But until I reach/accept that realization, I will copy and paste that conversation (Other conversations. Not the goat conversation. That stupid conversation is apparently here to stay.) in every damn scene I can, trying to find the place where it fits. Even if it doesn’t fit anywhere.

Which is, sadly, what I think is happening here.

I don’t think I’m going to make it to the revision phase. This time, I think those darlings are going to have to go before the revision phase because I’m just not getting anywhere.

Despite all my plotting, this WIP has taken a few turns that has made some storylines obsolete. It happens, and I know it’s going to happen, but I guess I am just stubborn enough to think I can out-stubborn my characters (ha.) and that they will relent and just do what I want how I want and say what I want while doing it.

(Spoiler alert: they won’t.)

So that’s where I’m at right now. Torn between wanting to achieve a goal and wanting to cling to the last remnants of gone-but-not-forgotten storylines.

Which will win?

Thanks for stopping by today. I’ll try to do better the next time.

Stay safe out there.

23 Commentsto Kill Your Darlings (An IWSG Post)

  1. Go ahead – toss the goats!

    • M.J. Fifield says:

      Nothing would make me happier than tossing the damn goats, but every time I think that’s going to happen, they talk their way into staying. Dunno…maybe it’s a sign that goats really are the key to this entire manuscript. (I doubt it, but stranger things have probably happened…)

  2. Jemi Fraser says:

    I love that goat conversation is still there!!!
    Killing darlings is so hard. I’m learning to listen to my gut on this but it’s not easy

    • M.J. Fifield says:

      Right? My gut’s all, “Seriously. Just cut this crap already.” and I’m all, “But my darlings!”

      And round and round it goes.

  3. I had to kill 30,000 words in a story once. It needed it though. And I knew it.

  4. Chrys Fey says:

    The goats! HAHAHA

    Yeah, in Chapter 2 of the book you’re critiquing for me, there’s a darling of a conversation (the one with Sassy) that I don’t want to kill, so I’m gonna do my best to keep it alive in the rewrite. 🙂

    • M.J. Fifield says:

      Wait…am I going to have to kill your darlings? 😉

      (Seriously, though, I don’t think you’ll have a problem finding a new home for that conversation.)

  5. I love your authentic, gut-kicking ramblings. Maybe they don’t gut-kick anyone else, but I have those darlings I never want to see get cut, and then after realizing they are in the way of my story, I finally cut them (sometimes).
    BTW – I LOVE your Love and Other Lies novel!

  6. Wow. It seriously makes me think you’re talking about my experience with my writing. Are you in my brain or something???

    I know you’ll figure it out. And maybe you’ll be lucky and find another way to bring your darlings back from the dead!

    • M.J. Fifield says:

      Maybe I’ll turn this WIP into a “choose your own adventure” type story so I can keep all the stuff I don’t want to cut.

  7. I just store those “darlings” (for me, that would be snippets of ‘genius’ prose that I can’t bear to toss in the bin) in a folder. There’s an “unwritten story” waiting to accept those abandoned darlings. One day.

  8. Kill your darlings! Just don’t delete them entirely because that’s behind the scenes type stuff you can share later.

    • M.J. Fifield says:

      Oh no, those cut scenes/convos/whatever are never deleted entirely. They’re just moved to the Deleted Scene file where they wait in vain for me to find them a new home. Never occurred to me to share any of that stuff later on.

  9. mshatch says:

    Yes, I’ve been doing some revising and sometimes the cutting makes me wince, though admittedly I often don’t fully delete in case that snarky exchange comes in handy somewhere else…
    Congrats on Love and Other Lies!

  10. Liz A. says:

    Yes, definitely use those scenes in bonus material for your newsletter subscribers or such. I bet there’s a novella side story for later when you have nothing else to work on 😉

  11. I’ve killed some of my darlings…and I’ve fought for others. The trick is knowing when to do which! @samanthabwriter from
    Balancing Act

  12. Olga Godim says:

    It is hard to cut off what you like because the fragment doesn’t fit the story. But maybe it would fit a different story? Don’t throw anything away. There is a place for everything, although that place might not be your current WIP.

  13. Deniz says:

    I’m getting better at killing my darlings! It really helps to be able to keep them in a separate file, as if I might come back to them someday! And sometimes I actually do! Or they can be revamped and used in a different story…

  14. Murees says:

    Congratulations on publishing your novel Good for you for doing it. I know all through the rewriting process you were worried, but you did a great job, M.J. So proud of you I’m getting better at killing my darlings, but its hard when they beg me to stay. I’m such a sucker. Goodluck with book 3.

  15. I’ve lost count of all the times I’ve has to kill my darlings over the years, haha. Definitely a painful, but necessary process. (Writing would be so much easier if characters would stop doing that whole out-stubborning thing, pffft.) Good luck doing what’s best for this story!


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