The term “kill your darlings” is often attributed to William Faulkner, Allen Ginsburg, or Stephen King as a source. However, this quote can actually be traced all the way back to Arthur Quiller-Couch, who penned it in his widely reprinted 1913-1914 Cambridge lectures “On the Art of Writing.”
If you here require a practical rule of me, I will present you with this: ‘Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it—whole-heartedly—and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings.
Personally, I can’t help but attribute this phrase to a writing instructor who drilled it lovingly into my skull while I attended the MFA program at Lindenwood University. So many hopeful writers make the newbie mistake of turning in what is called “purple prose” or flowery writing.
My instructor found great joy in trimming the fat from my writing, often leaving my words to throb in red ink. “Kill your Darlings!” she would repeat. A great writer does not need over-the-top description, long, stuffy words pulled from your handy thesaurus, or an excessive use of adverbs to tell a story.
Do we really need to know that your character cried angrily or ran quickly? Perhaps you are the type who loves to explain just how beautifully your character can cross a room. You can’t be blamed if that description goes on for five pages.
This is when it’s time to be brutal. Your story will lose suspense and become boring if you can’t clean up your first drafts. Editing is so much more than fixing grammar. If you feel you have lost all objectivity on your writing then it’s time to reach out for some help! To read more about my experience as an Editor click here.
In the end, “killing your darlings” will allow your writing to rise above the rest. You will no longer smile at a few catchy sentences, but will take great pride in a story that is cleverly and painstakingly written.
Why I have written a post with a quote
This is a part of a networking activity between bloggers. This particular activity involves quotations. The rules for the Three Days Three Quotes challenge are as follows.
1.Three quotes for three days.
2.Three nominees each day (there cannot be repetitions).
3.Thank the person who nominated you.
4.Inform the nominees.
The blog Settle in El Paso nominated me for the three days three quotes challenge. This blog is full of great content please check it out when you get a chance!
My nominees today are:
1. YuMin Ye
2. Sam Lobos
3. Jamie Marie Rose
2 thoughts on “The First of Three Days Three Quotes: Arthur Quiller-Couch”
Excellent quote. I had hard time understanding the quote at first but it became clearer when I read the entire post. Frabulous description! Looking forward to your next posts!
Have a wonderful week ahead.