Kill your Darlings

Kill your darlings. As a writer, you hear this statement a lot. What does it mean? It is a writing term that means to kill off a story line, character, or sentences in your work. Pieces of your creation that you might have worked hard to give life too but needs to be removed for the entire story to grow.

It is probably the hardest thing for any writer to do, erase aspects of your creation. Elements that you have work and sweated hard to write. Sometimes you have to let go of what is comfortable and leap into the unknown with your writing. A writer needs to try new techniques and styles that expand their writer’s toolbox.

This philosophy works for the act of writing, as well. I don’t know about other writers. When I started this journey, I had this idea of what I wanted to write. I wanted to write horror stories like Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and Edgar Allen Poe.

‘Kill your Darlings’ also means remove any preconceived ideas of what your writing should be. One thing I’ve learned on this journey is that writing evolves as the writer evolves. Paths take detours, and these detours provide knowledge and experience to the writer. Life experience.

Life doesn’t stay the same year after year. Life is living, and that involves change. It is the same with writing. As a writer, our skills need to evolve, as well. I started out writing horror, but it has progressed to include speculative fiction. It may develop more as I continue to write, but only if I write.

The Celtic wheel of life follows the cycle of life as well and can be applied to the life of writing as well. There is an upcoming festival called Lughnasadh, which falls on August 2nd. It is the second of the three harvests called the Grain harvest. Hence the saying ‘reap what you sow.’ 

It takes time and knowledge to learn how to plant and grow crops. It takes time and knowledge to write well and sell those stories. I’ve only been at it off and on for a few years, and I worry if I’m any good. Every reject I get, I take personally as a sign that I’m a lousy writer. When instead, it is a sign that I need to work harder and learn more about the art of writing.

Learning to write requires a lot of reading and writing. Stephen King himself says “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all other: read a lot and write a lot.”

Writing is like life, continually changing, and evolving. Like the plants and crops, we plant that must mature before we can harvest the produce for food. We must grow as writers – changing and evolving until we too mature. Then we can collect the fruits of our labor in whatever form it manifests.

The most important thing to remember is ‘do not stop writing.’ Every reject letter you receive doesn’t mean you can’t write. It just means you haven’t found the right home for your writing, but you will.

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