Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Kill Your Darlings

As I write this, I'm in the midst of edits on a book that seems to be getting universal book love (from me, my betas, my editor…)  It's kind of awesome that everyone lurves it so much, but edits must happen and so on and so forth.

Anyway, there's a bit of banter in the book that is, quite literally, my favorite piece. It cracks me up every time I read it. My editor told me to cut it. It's two lines. TWO! But this was the hardest change for me to make. It was my "darling" of this manuscript.

Here's the funny part. We are making a lot of changes to this book. They're going to take something that was already throwing everyone into book love and we're going to make it better. Like whoa better. But big work, lots of changes. And those two lines were the bit where I wanted to cry. That's what a "darling" is to me. The part that, if you have to change it, it breaks your heart a little. Anything less, and I'm all "kill it with fire!" But not that kind of darling.

The problem is, a good editor knows what the hell they're doing. They know the market. They know how the target audience will react to stuff. And, as much as it hurts, in this case, she's right. It's a pop culture reference that not everyone would immediately get, and that could possibly alienate readers since it happens so early in the book.

She was right, and it sucks.

So I took my two minutes of scowling at the email and sticking my tongue out at it and generally being a big old five-year-old.

And then I deleted it.

I killed it with fire.

As an author, it's fine to question your editor. Hell, I'd even argue that it's a good thing (so long as you aren't questioning every change). But once they explain, your job is to

  1. throw whatever kind of in-the-privacy-of-your-own-home (and-dear-gods-not-on-the-internet) fit you need to
  2. thoroughly examine their reasoning
  3. repeat steps 1 & 2 as needed
  4. and (barring a damn good reason not to) make the fucking changes. 

If you have a good editor, this shouldn't be hard because step two is going to make you realize they're right. Your editor is not your adversary.

Just for the sake of getting it in your head, I'm going to repeat myself.

Your editor is not your adversary.

Your editor is your teammate. They are your right hand. They are the one that keeps you from charging into battle not only sans armor, but sans weapons. There has to be a level of trust there along with a level of professionalism.

Like it or lump it, you need to learn to kill your darlings--no matter how precious they are to you.


  1. You've been spying on me, haven't you? ;) I have one of those pop culture references at the very beginning of a draft. I LOVE it. With a deep and abiding love. But I've had a couple betas tell me that it needs to go for precisely the reasons you've given. I may have thrown a small and private tantrum, but yes. The darlings must go. And editors ARE our friends as you say.

    1. I wish I wasn't spying on you! :( Mine was a Supernatural reference. What was yours?


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