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Editing: Darlings

Every writer creates them. Those sections of prose that do nothing to move the article or story along, but are so brilliant and powerful they make you do the Genius Dance in your chair. Sometimes you can spot them right off, but more often than not, all that dancing goes to your head and creates a temporary blindness.

You have given birth to a Darling.

Writers are often told “murder your darlings.” This is sound advice, assuming you have the ability to recognize a Darling and the fortitude to admit to yourself that you have, in fact, created one.

So, how do you go accomplish this difficult task? First, learn to recognize the symptoms that a Darling has taken up residence in your writing. Once born, the Darling will begin to have an immediate effect on all the prose that comes after. Possibly it will make you do an abrupt edit of the text that came before, too. Soon you may find yourself tinkering and fidgeting with every other word, sentence, paragraph and punctuation mark just for the sake of keeping that one nugget of brilliance. This should be a definite tip-off. If you are rewriting to make the words fit, chances are good it’s a Darling.

Even if you think your writing is Darling-free, it pays to have fresh eyes look over your work. This is one of those reasons you need writing homies.

Now, at this point, most advice for writers is simply to delete the offending passage, grieve, and move on. Easier said than done, you say? I understand. Deleting favorite passages is hard. Especially when you have toiled over the words and found what you believe is perfection. So, instead of murdering them, how about corralling them?

Cut the offending part from your piece, and paste it into an outtake file. An outtake file gives you a place to keep those Darlings safe while rendering them harmless. It’s quick, painless, and completely recoverable in the unlikely event you decide you needed that Darling after all.

Go ahead, give your Darlings a good home. Your writing will be better for it.

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4 comments on “Editing: Darlings

  1. You…you stay away from my precious darlings. 😦

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