Erasures or ‘Killing your Darlings’

by | Mar 31, 2023

When in the middle of rewrites, inevitably there comes a time when you have to bite the bullet and cut your favourite scene, your favourite character, your favourite piece of witty dialogue, the perfect word. Ugh.

‘But, but, but that’s the best part!’ 

‘No way can I change the location! Ketch Harbour is what inspired me to write the story in the first place.’

‘Kill off Uncle Fred! His character jumps off the page! How could I possibly cut him out?!’

It’s one of the MOST difficult things to do in the writing process. If something does not support the story, if it doesn’t move the action or character forward, if the character has no real purpose for being there…they have to go. 

For me, making the decisions about what to axe and what to keep, is the real trick. Feedback from a peer or beta reader can help. Editors, of course, through a publisher or paid independently, are another resource to show you how to navigate the revision process.

Learning how to hone, pare and excise your own work is the ideal.

A few rules of thumb to keep in mind are:

  • if you have repeated yourself, over-explained, run off at the mouth – cut it out
  • if you are more in love with your choice of words than the meaning of it – cut it out
  • if the subplot detracts from the main narrative, even though you find it hilarious – cut it out
  • if sweet little Milly can be combined with eccentric neighbour Lucy – do it