Story Stuff: K Is For Killing Your Darlings

Welcome to whatever day we’re on in our A-Z series. Today we’re gonna get violent. Sort of.


There’s a famous quote flying around in writing communities. Many writers think it was courtesy of Stephen King, probably because he was quoting Faulkner when he said it and more people know King. Behold.


The quote is more about editing and revising than draft creation. But we have to back up to draft creation to really get it.

When drafting, the goal is to write all the words, pretty much. Especially if you participate in NaNoWriMo (click here if you don’t know what that is), your life becomes more about daily word goals than things like, say, eating and showering. Fellow word slingers delight in bragging on the interwebs about writing 8,000 words yesterday but oops I forgot I had kids for a while.

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After the draft is complete and you’ve showered (because come on, don’t be gross), it’s time to share your masterpiece with a critique group and/or an editor. They will read your words, and at some point (likely in the beginning of the book), they will say, “cut this.”

“But those are my dear words,” you’ll say.

“Yes,” they’ll say. “They are boring and don’t serve the story. Cut them.”

And you’ll be all:

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Or maybe not because most of us are adults (at least in number), but still. Cutting something you spent hours working on sucks.

That doesn’t mean it isn’t necessary.

Now, don’t cut something only because one person in the critique group said to. But if two say it, or if an editor you’ve paid says it, well . . . it may be time to kill that darling.


It can still serve a useful purpose.

As you build your platform, you’ll want as many reasons to talk about your book as possible, because more exposures leads to more sales (assuming you’ve done a few other things). If you blog or have a newsletter (and you should), you can create a “bonus features” page (like this one). Part of that can be deleted scenes.

deleted scene

This is a screenshot of a yet-to-be-published deleted scenes post.

Hey, if Hollywood can do it, so can we.

Do you have a story about a darling you had to kill? Tell us about it in the comments!


8 thoughts on “Story Stuff: K Is For Killing Your Darlings

  1. Pingback: Blogging From A to Z Challenge – Theme Reveal! | Allison Maruska

  2. LOL. “it’s only after you are finished and realize you were painting a farm and not a zoo that you would know this giraffe didn’t belong.”
    You two are hysterical.
    I think I would like a giraffe on my farm. It would trim the tops of all the trees for me. smiles

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ya gotta do it all. Write the unnecessary stuff (because YOU the writer may need it, but we the reader probably don’t(, then listen when people say cut. And often they don’t say it, they just skim it and say nothing, which is even worse. Skimming is the brain’s way of not yawning noisily in the middle of the Sunday church sermon. If you could skim that horrid fire and brimstone lecture, you would. You can’t, But words, you can.

    HOW you embrace the knife is this: realize that pretty much no matter how much you are recommended to cut, the story will still make sense and it will be more enjoyable to readers. That’s a win. It will still be your words and your ideas (just slightly fewer words), but it’s still your WORK. Unlike sermons, you may not have a captive audience. With good writing, what you put in is as important as what you leave out – or take out.

    And BTW, how people skim a boring sermonizer is by NOT GOING BACK. That part’s the same with books. You don’t want that. So cut.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Someone on Twitter described the first draft as a long outline, and I think there’s truth to that. Sometimes it’s not until the big picture exists that you can see what isn’t necessary or getting in the way.

      It’s important for writers to remember your point that it’s still THEIR STORY. It’s just leaner and meaner.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think more authors should be brave enough to take their successful stories and release the original draft. I think Stephen King did something similar with one of his books, and the amount of extra words and boring information and disjointed sidebars is eye opening.

        For everybody who writes without an outline, the ability to go back and cut is possibly the second or third most important thing to do. If you write without an outline, you don’t really know what all is important until you are as you say looking at the entire picture. If it was a painting, and you painted a barn and a horse and a giraffe, it’s only after you are finished and realize you were painting a farm and not a zoo that you would know this giraffe didn’t belong.

        So my new phrase is, cut your giraffes.

        Liked by 1 person

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