Kill Your Darlings (Insecure Writers’ Support Group)

May 1st, May Day for the rest of the world. You know what that means, comrades…yes, it’s another edition of Insecure Writers’ Support Group. Viva El IWSG!

This Blogging Things Works Wonders! (Insecure Writer's Support Group)

Wow, is it May 1st already? Sheesh, where has this year gone? I feel like I really haven’t accomplished much. My novel’s still in third draft status, that dreaded third draft status. But I think all of that is going to change.

I was reading through some forums on a writer’s group on Linkedin earlier this morning. One thread, entitled, “Do you ‘Murder your Darlings’?” caught my attention. The thread’s creator, Carolyn Egan, wrote the following regarding this:

“This famous quote sometimes attributed to Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, reminds us to ruthlessly revise our writing, especially those flowery overwritten passages that can work against us by obscuring the meaning of our prose from our reader. Are you too in love with your ‘darlings’ to murder them?”

I’m familiar with this trope, the idea that your writing can get bogged down by the things you’re in love with, but in all honesty are really hurting your story’s progress. I wrote the following response to Carolyn’s question:

“I think of these ‘darlings’ like I think of being in relationships. Are these relationships ones you want to be in? If a relationship I’m in is on that’s filled with subplots and interesting minor characters, but nothing really concrete I can build something on, then it’s time to end the relationship. Sounds harsh, and there will be feelings hurt, but there’s nothing worse than sticking stubbornly to something that simply doesn’t work.”

Spoken like an asshole that’s broken a heart or two…

My novel, about a superhero in the midst of a midlife crisis, has a subplot regarding a corporation made up entirely of superheroes. Our protagonist was once part of this corporation, but he and the corporation have been on the outs for the longest time. Also adding to the strain in that relationship is the fact that his ex-wife is pretty high up in the corporation, and her loyalty throughout the story seems to be questioned.

And it’s dawned on me that this subplot just isn’t working anymore. Sad, because the idea of a corporation of superheroes is the genesis of my novel, an idea that began nearly two years ago during a free-form conversation my wife and I were having about nothing at all. Sort of like a cross between X-Men meets The Office.

The thing is, I like my main plot much more, the superhero in midlife crisis. It’s been near and dear to me for the better part of a year, and, honestly, that plot flows much more freely, without the weighty subplot. Like a girlfriend that’s beautiful but bad for me, I’ve decided to “kill” the subplot.

Of course, I can’t let certain things go. Eventually, I’d like to revisit the whole X-Men meets The Office story line, because it was funny when my wife and I riffed on it a couple of years ago, and I still think it’s funny. It’s even funnier when it’s allowed to stand alone.

But for now, my darling, I must let you go.

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15 thoughts on “Kill Your Darlings (Insecure Writers’ Support Group)

  1. Good for you! I think that’s the hardest thing–not killing pretty turns of phrase, but killing scenes and sub-plots that were part of what made you start the story in the first place.

    • I love turns of phrase, in fact I’m a little too in love with them. So I really don’t see a need to get rid of them. It’s just the clutter that I need to kiss goodbye.

      • Didn’t mean to imply all nice turns of phrase should go. But I do give an extra hard look at anything that makes me think I’m pretty darn clever. Just want to be sure it makes sense and fits the scene, and isn’t just pretty words sitting there all alone (I also really love clever use of language–I mean, I put up with a husband who can’t stop punning!).

  2. Your post just made me realize I need to break things off with one of my subplots. I have been avoiding doing such because it was a large role in the story but it seems no longer a valid part. It is just something I am holding onto because it was involved in the original idea for this novel. Great post – thanks

    • It’s actually killing me that I’m having to do away with this subplot, because I’ve written some very good scenes, but they really don’t seem to fit with the overall structure of the story, no matter how hard I try to make them fit.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  3. You heartbreaker, you. Unfortunately, I’ve had a bit of experience there, too. Or actually, fortunately. Some of them were pesky remoras that were sucking the life out of me.

    I like what I hear of the subplot…seems to add a little depth to the midlife crisis. Behind the scenes office politics of The Justice League. Sort of “Watchmen.” I’m sure you’ll figure it all out.

    Oh…btw…I keep a blog, too. Ever since the blazer and scarf came along, you’ve gone all J.D. Salinger on me. Maybe I need to buy some writer gear myself. Except a vest and a tie. It’s hot down here in Florida. 🙂

    • I’m familiar with your blog, thank you very much. It’s just that I’ve allowed work to get in the way, and I’ve REALLY slacked off on reading and responding to a lot of others’ blogs. BAD! BAD!

      • Yeah…snicker, snicker…I know you’ve been busy, and am very proud of you and all the latest. Work is the only allowable excuse. And death. And a real bad hangover. And a real bad hangnail…

      • AND you can use those scenes, if you’re lucky.

        Are you going to have to come up with a different subplot? Seems like I have a tendency to make my stories go too arrow-straight to the conclusion, and I have to be sure there’s some real-life confusion in there.

  4. Pingback: Cheating on Your Manuscript, Or: Why Writers Shouldn’t Be Monogamous to Their Writing (Insecure Writer’s Support Group) | Out Where the Buses Don't Run

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