“In writing, you must kill your darlings.” ~William Faulkner
Many a writer has heard this bit of advice before I’m sure. For those of you who haven’t heard of this before the idea is that the scenes a writer loves most of all in their work, their “darlings” are usually the ones that need most urgently to be cut. Just because they are the author’s favorite part doesn’t mean that the section is actually important or necessary to the novel.
Tonight whilst I was plugging away at my latest WIP this seemed a particularly apt bit of advice to me. And, in this instance, almost a presentiment of things to come in my writing life.
Lemme a ‘splain–no, there is too much, lemme sum up: Right now I’m working on a short contemporary romance while I let revisions percolate in the back of my mind on another project. This contemporary romance is supposed to be a light, frothy bit of a romp. Fun. Wholesome, even. (I can so do wholesome! Totally!) So, since it is a fun contemporary I feel I have a certain bit of leeway to slide in the witty banter, the jokes, maybe even some of the absurd.
Tonight, though, as I was writing, my brain just started to riff on this Tarzan theme. Now, the Tarzan idea is a joke, but it was really intended to be just a one-off. A quick one-liner laugh and then bing, bang, boom and onto the next plot point. Instead, my writing muse decided my hero and heroine wanted to have a long, and very silly conversation with lots of Tarzan jokes. 244 words. Nearly a WHOLE PAGE of jokes about Tarzan. I let my brain get it out onto the screen but afterward I can’t help but look back over all that writing and think: What the hell, brain?!
See, this stuff is pure silly banter. It’s fluff. It’s froth. It doesn’t really further the plot or the romantic relationship. It is not carrying it’s weight, literarily speaking. It’s empty calories. It’s the chocolate donut of narrative writing.
But…but it amuses me. I love it. It’s my darling. My preciousss….
This is where I get into trouble. All writers have their particular breed of “darlings,” you see; those scenes or vignettes that don’t do anything for the narrative but that you, the writer, love so dearly that you just can’t bear to cut them out, even if they are weighing down your manuscript. My critique partner is rather fond of backstory, for example, and long intense descriptions of place that aren’t necessary for plot.
And as for me? What is my particular breed of “darlings”? The jokes. I hate to kill a joke. Some of my greatest regrets from editing my last two novels were when I had to leave a joke on the cutting room floor.
So, you see, that’s what got me so annoyed writing tonight because I’m looking to the future and predicting that these jokes, these newly born darlings of mine, are going to be cut like so many of their brethren before them have. These Tarzan jokes, too, will fall under the deathly scythe of my red-pen. Their days are numbered, and I know it, so why do I even bother writing them down at all?
Because that’s what writers do. (Or at least, what this writer does.) We just let our brain spew onto the blank page and hope a few pearls come out with all the doomed darlings that are going to end up in the deleted scenes folder. We write, and in the end all we can hope is that someone will want to read whatever the final product turns out to be…
Is it so wrong to hope, though, that maybe I’m wrong? that maybe this time one of my darlings will survive the transition from my brain to an editor’s desk? That maybe, just maybe, I could get a book published with a full page of Tarzan jokes?