Writing Excuses Notes: Kill Your Darlings

Here are some notes I took after listening to Writing Excuses.

It is an educational podcast that helps novelists/writers.

The topic is how to kill your darlings.

It comes from Season 1, Episode 3.

Kill Your Darlings

It means removing writing that you’re really attached to.

You do this to preserve the whole of your work.

It might be a favorite character, line of dialogue, or a scene.


The House Example

When you’re building a house and putting up walls, you build around central themes.

You might find that one of the first walls doesn’t fit.

Knock it down.
See what stands.


Time to Edit

New versions have to happen to remove weakness in the writing.

The story will grow bigger than individual ideas.

The editing/re-write process makes your darlings easy to spot.


How do you know when to kill them?

Use your tools:

  • Payment for work brings detachment.
    Take your overgrown story and prune it into a a beautiful hedge.
  • Keep file of them.
    You can kill them and possible revive them later (like literary zombies).
  • It’s your director’s cut. Have your deleted scenes. The more “shot” story, the easier to hatchet.
  • Controversial: Your first book should be killed. After a few novels you can edit without love.
    • Your second will be even stronger. You have to pass milestones of writing practice.


How do you know something needs to be killed?

Get a second opinion. You’re too close and books are meant to be read with fresh eyes.

Ask around and take any help offered to you.


Practice killing your darlings.

You improve with practice. Write more!

You can always kill a darling because a better one is around the corner.

Find something you love and try taking it out. Does it still work?

If you’re unsure, try both ways. Add and remove something.


Writing Excuses Season One Notes

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