As a writer, you should commit murder every day.

More importantly, you should be learning to enjoy it. It should be painless, quick and satisfying for you.

The end result should provide a clear, final path to your end goal – that being, to print or pixelate.

How and why would you commit murder?

Self editing is very like murder.

In his 1916 tome, On the Art of Writing, Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch (1863-1944) declares that you must “murder your darlings.”

But how could you possibly do that?

You’ve just given birth and in your minds-eye they have already taken flight – you can see them grown up and enjoying the fame and accolade that will surely come from your brilliant prose.

No, no… you couldn’t possibly murder your darlings.

Most people (and especially writers) can’t do it. That’s the problem.

Once you’ve given life to them, they’ve danced off the page.

But that is not reality.

No matter how much you defend and whine “that’s my best sentence,” you need to recognise it was great (in isolation), but it doesn’t necessarily take that same position in the piece as a whole.

And that’s the catch – you need to look at the whole piece of writing, not each flourish in isolation.

When you edit your work, you need take on the view of your reader.

Editors are first readers; they should make sure readers get quality writing.

To do that, you need to sit in the chair of the reader, not the writer when you edit your work. And so, there will be times when you need to murder your darlings.

But…what is the ‘greater good’ for your murderous acts?

Always to remove useless, unwanted things.

Once you learn that writing is about the piece as a whole (not the flourish) then you have taken your first, trembling steps towards committing the perfect murder – a final edit.

 

 

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