The title does not refer to killing those near and dear to your heart, although I’m sure at times, we’ve all felt like it. It is actually a quote made by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, a British writer who published under the pen name of Q. More times than I can count, I have had to “murder my darlings.” Anyone who writes will know the sick feeling. Don’t you just hate it when you spend hours or days researching, looking for the right words, the right phrases, editing, rewriting, and then, reality sets in. You come to the conclusion that all your efforts, no matter how grand, do not belong in your story. They neither advance the plot or are relevant to your storyline. The only thing left to do is block the whole damn thing and hit the delete button.
Not long ago, I spent two weeks researching the illegal drug trade for a novel I was working on. I watched documentaries, searched the Internet, read books and articles. Then, I wrote three pages of narrative, plus dialogue, before I realized none of it mattered. So, I killed it and moved on.
It reminds me of a story about the late Jim Valvano, the flamboyant coach of North Carolina State University, who led and inspired the college basketball team to victory in the 1983 NCAA Championship. The Washington Post reported a story told by Valvano about the time a State alum sent him a letter that warned him that if he lost to Carolina one more time, the dude was coming to his house to shoot his dog. Valvano wrote back and told him he didn’t have a dog. A few days later, he received a package at his door. It was a dog with a note around its neck that said, “Don’t get too attached.”
Let that be a lesson to me and other writers, don’t get too attached to portions of your writing even if they are near and dear to your heart. Murder them!
Photo courtesy of Boaz Viftach