Reviving the “darlings” left behind
The directive to “kill your darlings” is one of the most challenging and valuable practices we can employ as writers. But how do we pick those darlings? And if those passages are so dear to us, how can they truly be worthy of deletion?
A good editor is the answer to the first question, and will give you the answer to the second. For me, working with a good editor on my memoir was a game-changer — for the first time, I was given clear, professional guidance on what to add, rearrange, and cut — and why.
Most of my “darlings” consisted of well-written passages that just didn’t serve the overall manuscript well. Or, they involved poetic language that was too focused on the craft of the sentence, rather than conveying a clear meaning. Beautiful as they may have been, they had to go.
However, the first draft of my memoir also contained quite a few poems and mixed-genre pieces, like this one. I had written the entire manuscript in a kind of experimental, invented form… that would not be traditionally published. And so, part of the painstaking first revision occurred before my editor even laid eyes on my work, where many darlings were cut and saved elsewhere, to (hopefully) be revived in other contexts at an unknown later date.
As I write about writing and share the lessons I’ve learned along the way, I’m also going to share excerpts and exercises that formed some of my favorite passages, whether they made it into the book or not. The following “reference guide” was one of the mixed-genre pieces left, until now, on the cutting room floor.
A Young Girl’s Reference Guide
Book: noun. Consists of quite a few to many pages, wherein a writer often attempts to make sense of or explore the “big” themes of life: home, isolation, love, suffering, etc. Taking one of these to the forest is one of the greatest sources of passion you will ever discover.
Forest: noun. A place to go. You will not be followed there, and no voices will interrupt as you read your book. You may find “special” places that are “yours” for five to ten years, places that encourage you to invent mythology and names of trees. On the whole, a good place to be, though…