Sunday, October 14, 2007

Murder Advice

Gabriella asked the other day about the origin of the phrase "killing your darlings".

Mab Morris did some excellent sleuthing and found the original in "The Yale Book of Quotations". Arthur Quiller-Couch (English writer and critic, 1863-1944) wrote: "Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetuate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it--whole-heartedly--and delete it before sending your manuscript to the press. Murder your darlings." The quote is from the section on the Art of Writing in "On Style" (1916).

There is an important lesson for all of us when we pat ourselves on the back for an exceptional piece of writing. Is it exceptional? Does it belong in the story? Wait a few weeks to answer your own question. It might end up on the floor like all the turkey seques I keep adding to my novels.

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