K is for Kill your Darlings (or how to edit without mercy)
There are various attributions for the phrase "murder your darlings" as it applies to writing (some say Fitzgerald, others say Quiller-Couch, still others say Faulkner).
I don't really think it matters who first said this (the librarian in my just cringed at that statement): what really matters is that we take to heart the meaning of this phrase.
My book is perfect, right? It's my wonderful star child, right?
Wrong. It is flawed, and I must trade the mother cap for that of the murderer if I want my manuscript to live up to its full potential. Hey, you have to be cruel to be kind!
When I'm revising, it can be so challenging to be brutal: the manuscript is, after all, my child. But I have learned to be distrustful if I don't make at least a handful of revisions in each chapter or scene: no one is perfect, and I'm no exception.
I've learned that I am less likely to murder my darlings when I revise shortly after finishing the project: for me, time is of the essence. I need to leave a completed manuscript alone for months, untouched, so that I can come back to it with a sharp mind that can see the flaws in the story. It's easier for me to begin a new project and let that take over before I even consider editing the completed manuscript. The downside of this is that I have a lot of "transitional" projects, which never seem to get finished.
When I am editing, I have also learned that the work will never be done: I'll send what I consider to be a perfect draft to my agent, but she'll send it back with suggestions. According to thinkexist.com, da Vinci is the one who taught us that "art is never finished, only abandoned."
Before I abandon my darling pages to the world, I want to make sure that I've been as critical and thoughtful in my revisions as possible. Distance helps me kill my darlings.
How do you edit? What tricks have you developed to make your work the best it can be before you abandon it?
We're almost halfway through the A-Z challenge! Cheer on the other participants!