Murdering My Darlings

In other words, I’ve been in Ruthless Edit mode. Well, honestly, I’ve been in Squeamish Edit mode. I may need to up my dosage to get to Ruthless.

The title of this post comes from Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch: “Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it – whole-heartedly – and delete it before sending your manuscripts to press. Murder your darlings.”

I have this Big Fat Fantasy called SAGE, which I’ve been working on for almost as long as #4 Daughter has been alive. She grew up with it, and she loves every word of it as it stands now. Trouble is, editors and publishers and other readers did NOT grow up with it, and they don’t want to spend the same kind of time with the world and the characters that #4 and I do.

So I’ve saved a “director’s copy” version with all its bits in, and I’m working with an editing copy. So far, I’ve excised the first three entire chapters. And I’m like, “Hmmm…. Starting the book where the story actually starts…. Interesting concept.”

Of course, it’s sometimes difficult to say where a story actually starts. Was it when Joe stepped off the curb in front of that cab, or was it when he had the fight with his kid that distracted him so he took that step? Or was it when the kid was born and Joe’s wife died in childbirth, so Joe has always been negative toward the kid? Or was it when Joe met his wife, the only woman he could ever love? Or was it when Joe woke up in the alien spaceship after he felt the impact of the cab hitting him?

I can’t locate the quote about “start your story at the last possible moment” — if anybody knows, please leave the info in the comments section. It’s great advice, though — better for a short story than a novel, obviously, except for a given value of “last possible”. I love all the stuff I had before the point at which I now think the story should begin, but I think the moment I’ve chosen is the best.

SEKRIT MESSIDGE TO #4: I’m starting with Karol stumbling through the woods after the Swords have killed Cameron. The chapter where she takes refuge with Moder Zglaria. The chapter where she gives birth to Cameron’s baby, then leaves it at the baby farm and goes looking for Kinnan to raise a revolution.

Good choice? Time. Will. Tell.

WRITING PROMPT: If you have a story that isn’t selling, try taking some off the top. Eliminate ALL the set-up and begin in the middle of the first action. Just try it, just to see how it works.



I was born in Louisville, Kentucky, but now live in the woods in southern Indiana. Though I only write fiction, I love to read non-fiction. The more I learn about this world, the more fantastic I see it is.

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One thought on “Murdering My Darlings

  1. Pam Turner

    August 4, 2011 at 11:18am

    I took a look at my beginning & while it’s not bad, I decided to get right to the point where my hero meets the girl and, as they accidentally bump into each other, knows she’s in danger.

    I don’t just murder my darlings, I torture ’em too. 🙂

    Permalink  ⋅ Reply
    • Author

      Marian Allen

      August 4, 2011 at 11:31am


      Well, yes, though, you have to put your characters through SOME kind of wringer, or what’s the point, right?

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  2. Jane

    August 4, 2011 at 11:53am

    Hi. Boy, am I feeling sympathy right now. For you? Or for the slain words? Heh heh.

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    • Author

      Marian Allen

      August 4, 2011 at 2:18pm

      I know, Jane. But ~whispering~ I’m not really murdering them. I’m leaving them at a cottage deep in the woods with seven little men with stupid names ~/whispering~

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      • Jane

        August 4, 2011 at 8:49pm

        Tell them to watch out for that witch.

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        • Author

          Marian Allen

          August 5, 2011 at 8:27am

          I know–her and her “herbs”. The last time I dropped by, she was totally baked.

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  3. Bodie P

    August 5, 2011 at 1:19am

    I save all my extra words in a Special Folder. I believe that someday I’ll open it up and all of those lovely, better-off-dead scenes, characters, and descriptions will have spontaneously created my Great Work, the Work for which my name will become synonymous with Literature 101, Literary Criticism, and Great Authors courses in colleges the world over. Students will curse me.

    Permalink  ⋅ Reply

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