When my editor introduced me to the term and concept of ‘kill your darlings,’ I physically flinched and my heart stuttered. It wasn’t the picture of murder, as I am game for metaphoric homicide in most instances. I was as attached as the epithet suggests to my little word babies, my precious literary beloveds.
I wouldn’t really hunt them down, so my first rewrite stalled in being pared from 400 to 380 words. Not a lot, not enough, since debut authors don’t get to have Harry Potter page counts. They have to produce a cheap print run, in case the book goes nowhere.
On my second hard, heavy rewrite I listened to this age-old axiom, the siren song: kill your darlings. It became an initiatory rite of passage, a trust exercise in letting go, this lesson that deleting beautiful turns of phrase doesn’t threaten that I’ll never write one again. Having now cut the book down to 320 pages, a thick slice of flowery overindulgence excised, I feel like a truer author.
Nonetheless, they are gone but not forgotten. The whole point of this section is to show you my dead darling collection. Imagine each gaudy lyricism pinned to a display board like a rigor mortised butterfly. In memoriam.