Sep 062011

The cliched advice for writers is to “murder your darlings.” I won’t get into the origination and historical background of this quote here. You can Google it up for yourself. The principle behind the cliched quote is that if you like a piece of writing, you cannot judge it objectively, and thus you cannot improve it or know when it is ready for public consumption.

I take the opposite approach. I write what I like, and I have to like something for it to feel finished and ready. If I find something I’ve done entertaining or touching, that is one step toward being a solid piece of finished work.

Here’s a blog entry where writer Wendy Palmer agrees with me on this.

I must admit that the cliche is partially valid–you do need to balance your personal feelings with objective evaluation by yourself and by others. For example, Frank herbert used some form of “elfin features” a zillion times in his classic sci-fi novel Dune to describe one of his main characters. When I read this novel for the first time, I giggled every time I saw this pathetic darling phrase show up. herbert needed to murder this lame phrase and find five other ways to describe this characters face. The novel really needed to do without referring to the vague qualities that “elfin” tries to convey.

It’s a good question for any artistic work. Where is your balance between pleasing yourself and creating something with objective quality?

What do you think? Leave a comment to let us know your experiences with your darlings.

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