Discarded Bits – How To Kill Your Darlings The Pain-Free Way

This post is two parts. Firstly, I have been dabbling in illustration once again, and I’ve finished a portrait of one of the elvish councilors from Lockwood Tower. I really like how it came out, and I thought I’d upload it here on the blog since it’s been a while since my last piece of artwork.

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Secondly, how about that title, eh? It’s a situation that all writers usually find themselves in, and it’s not fun. Killing your darlings – those pieces of your manuscript that are rewritten or otherwise rendered useless. There seems to be nothing else to do besides highlight the long passages and then hit delete.

It’s a scary and saddening thing to do as a writer. After all, didn’t you work your butt off in that chair for a few hours to produce all that narrative? How can you even consider just blasting it into oblivion after all the sweat, blood, and tears?

I came up with a solution for myself, and I hope it will be useful to you if you are also staring down a section of your novel that needs to be taken out.

Most of my own personal issues with deleting sections of writing from my manuscript stem from what I mentioned above. It’s hard to just throw away writing that at one time meant something to the progress of your story.

So, my solution is simple (though it took me a little bit of time to implement this process into my own writing routine). Create a folder called “Discarded Bits” in your writing project, and any time that you have a section of writing that needs to be deleted, create a new document and paste that passage into the discarded bits folder. This way, nothing gets truly deleted and you don’t have to think of taking out the writing as killing something for good.

This is helpful because you never know when something might come in handy. Deleting your writing is a dangerous act. I’ve gone back to some of these discarded bits when I realized later on that they would fit elsewhere in the story. In most cases, they remain in the discarded folder because I’ve rewritten the scene with all new elements or characters, but it’s good peace of mind to have them available for browsing as you work on your project.

Also, seeing the word count rise in the discarded folder is good for your development as a serious writer. How so? Well, the more you remove from your work in progress, the tighter it will be. Seeing my word count in the discard folder go from 100 words to nearly 5,000 currently means that I’m getting more ruthless in my plotting and drafting. If something doesn’t move the story forward or develop tension in a scene, it needs to go. No exceptions.

So, if you are like me and you hate throwing away your work, do yourself a favor and keep it in a separate folder for a later date. You’ll be glad you did, and your manuscript will thank you in the end!

3 thoughts on “Discarded Bits – How To Kill Your Darlings The Pain-Free Way

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