The Writers Dilemma (Guest Post)

By Gwen


How could anyone kill their darlings when they birthed them?

My darlings are the great thoughts, the succinct quotes, the magical insights, the metaphors, similes that light up my writing and make it sparkle like sunshine on rippling water. How can I kill them? Well, I can’t. To kill them would be to kill me.

There are options other than suicide for me and my darlings. One is to delete them, consigning them to the bin. Secondly, they can be filed away for use in another writing project. Thirdly, I categorised them so they can be found quickly and easily when needed.

My darlings can be adjusted to add life to the story or project. Improvement does not mean death it means recycling. Giving another life to my darlings. Killing is destroying, removing, cutting away. To kill off my darlings is to run the risk of killing that ‘something’ that makes my story unique and readable.

I take courage and prepare, comb, mentor my darlings. I do not commit author’s genocide. I take them refining the quote, rephrasing the sentence, smoothing and tightening the paragraph for that great moment when that great idea, that magical scene, the well-drawn character takes centre stage.


When your romantic scene doesn’t work anymore what do you do?

The darlings must go if they no longer fit.

Here is a checklist to determine whether to kill, cut or coach our darlings.
• Do they fit with the flow of the story?
• Do the darlings make the story stronger enhance the atmosphere of the novel?
• Do they add clarity to the scene, the story, the chapter?
• Does removing the scene harm the flow or clarity of the story?
• By removing that psychological insight, the suffering and hard work; will the characters be altered to their detriment or enhancement?
• Why do I like this scene, this character or this phrase? Does it harm the story? If it doesn’t harm the story…it stays.


My darlings must make my story magical.

Nursing a story through the birth pangs and rearing it to adulthood takes thought and hard work.

Why kill my darlings? Why not salvage them, reprocess them, give them a makeover.

Change brings growth – it turns good books into great books.

Good writers are turned into great writers when they are brave enough to take their darlings and groom them for centre stage.

Cutting out the darlings to trim down the story and improve it can take away the sparkle, the mystery, the subtle innuendo.

If a scene doesn’t work find out why and make changes to improve the weak sections turning the book into a great book.

Make stars out of your darlings. If you consign them to the bin they cannot strut their stuff across the pages of your book.

There is always the possibility that the darlings will flop, time then, Annie to get your gun and kill them off.

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12 thoughts on “The Writers Dilemma (Guest Post)

  1. I’m in the revision stage right now and am struggling with this. It helps me to believe that if some of my characters don’t survive this draft, they may be resurrected in Book 2 (a bold thought, considering that Book 1 is a scribbled, note-strewn mess right now. But still). Thanks for the reminder.

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