Wednesday, April 27, 2011

When It Just Won't Work

Ahhh. There's nothing like the joy of writing a perfect phrase, a meaty metaphor, or a sensational simile.


I was able to jump right back into the novel last night and oh boy, did I ever have fun. In the midst of rewriting a particular scene, I came upon one of my favorite paragraphs. I desperately wanted to keep it. I loved how I'd crafted the metaphor, the imagery I used, and how it all fit together so perfectly with my characters' dialogue.


It didn't fit with the new scene.

And as I twisted and turned the scene and tried to figure out a way for my rewrite to fit the paragraph instead of the other way around, I realized, with a sinking heart, that I couldn't do it that way. While this particular metaphor beautifully fit the previous scene, it just didn't work with the revised version.

This is what is meant by "kill your darlings." As writers, our "darlings" are our words, and sometimes, no matter how hard it is, they must go in order to benefit the story. It's difficult. Sometimes excruciating. But it must be done.

Of course, I'll keep this juicy metaphor tucked away in a file somewhere, or possibly try to use it later in the story. It's just too good to toss.

Have you ever tried to make a phrase, a paragraph, a snippet of dialogue, or some other element of your story that you love work even when you knew it wouldn't?


  1. One of the things I've learned (after many bouts of head-banging!) is if it doesn't work, no amount of tweaking and fiddling will make it work. So now I just sigh and toss. (Actually, I save everything in "scraps" files, just in case...)

    Still heartbreaking, but I take a lot less time about it these days. Good for you for making the cut, even when it hurts!

  2. Melissa,
    Even in the minuscule amount of writing I've done so far, this has already happened a few times.

    It's hard to let go, isn't it! But I always hope I can come up with something equally "darling" that does fit:)

  3. It's so frustrating when something just refuses to fit into the novel.

  4. Christine - I have so many bits that I've tossed over the years in hopes of using it again...and I don't know that I ever have. I think I literally forget about them!

    Valerie - That is a great attitude to have! I'm wondering if I can come up with an equally good metaphor...guess I'll never know until I try. :-)

    Debs - Incredibly frustrating!

  5. I've so been there!! I usually keep tweaking until it loses it's shine. Once I'm on my fourth or fifth revision, it just starts to look ugly. Then it's easier to take out.

    The blessing of digital - it's still there in a previous copy, if I feel the need to go back and stroke it a little... or find it a home in another book. :)

  6. Oh yes, you have my sympathies. But someone told me something about these darlings that made me feel better. They said if they're TOO good, where a reader will stop to admire the phrase or sentence, then the writing actually works against you because for a moment it takes the reader OUT of the story. So, you can look at it that way, that the reader moves right along better, without seeing your hand ... Sigh.

  7. Hi Heidi! Thanks for stopping by. I have to tackle that same scene again tonight and although I haven't cut that paragraph yet, I have a feeling the deed will be done this evening! :-)

    Joanne - That's actually a good way to look at it. I like how you think! :-)

  8. Oh my goodness, yes! This happens often, and I want to keep it because it all sounds good but it just doesn't fit the scene. Usually its some funny dialogue. Rather than ' kill my darlings', I save them for a later WIP. My edits file is quite large with all the rescuing I do. ;-)

  9. Talei - I have one of those files, too. In fact, I save all the scenes I delete from my WIP. :-)

  10. Oh yes, that happens quite a bit during re-writes! But I stopped trying to make things fit a long time ago and just toss them out. I create new daily draft files of stories (ie: "story1 4-28-11.doc"), so I can always go back and find those things in case they might work elsewhere.

    (Now, I will admit I have a broken novel that I haven't been able to fix, because the very thing that's broken and must be tossed out is the thing I love most about the entire book, and I haven't found a way to reconcile it into something new yet. Sigh.)

    I also noticed -- if I write something I particularly like, it's almost guaranteed not to make it into the final draft. It's like some sort of Murphy's Law for writing.

  11. DK - Ooh, a Murphy's Law for writing. I like that. I think I have a lot of things in my novels that I love that won't make it into the final draft, either. Frustrating!

  12. I have this same sort of problem in some designs I do. I try for hours to make it work, then I finally give up. I hate it, but I know eventually I'll be able to make it work for something else. That's the part that keeps me going!

  13. Gail - I loved your comment because I never thought of this from a design/art perspective. BTW, looking forward to seeing you back in Nebraska!


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