Home > Writing, Writing Advice > You’re My Older Brother, Fredo: Killing Your Darlings Isn’t Easy

You’re My Older Brother, Fredo: Killing Your Darlings Isn’t Easy


I feel like a monster. A bloody, pen-wielding monster.

I’m working on re-writes, and I’ve cut a great deal of nonsense. It is making the story better, but holy hell in a handbasket – this is not an easy undertaking.

There are so many lines I adore. Usually, I’m mocking something or someone. Those lines? Removed. Slashed brutally, before their prime. If it doesn’t serve the story, it’s gone. I’m adding things, too. But it’s the removal that’s the hardest. I’ve also found a lot of clumsy sentence construction. Things that just don’t work. Or that sound like fortune cookie. Those fill me with an all-consuming sense of shame — that crap? It came out of ME? DAMN IT TO HELL! *shakes fist at the universe*

Uh, where was I? Right. Fortune cookies. Don’t get me wrong. I love a good fortune cookie. But I don’t want to bore anyone. And clichés are unacceptable. Apparently, the many times I edited this manuscript? I didn’t have enough distance. Or patience. I’m not exceptionally patient. I’m learning to be. IT HURTS.

Killing your darlings isn’t easy. It isn’t pretty. It makes me twitchy. I feel like Michael Corelone, facing his brother Fredo in that epic scene in The Godfather: Part II. “I know it was you, Fredo. You broke my heart.” Michael didn’t want to do what he did, but he had to. To be a writer, you need to be ruthless.

(Yes, I totally just compared writing to The Godfather. Remember: leave the gun. Take the cannolis.)

*ahem* So, I’m slashing and dicing. When I’m done, I’ll share a few things I’ve removed. I might even tell you why I took them out, aside from “too wordy” or “didn’t work.” Or “so painfully flowery that it would make rainbows cry.”

 I think it’ll be helpful. Plus, what else do you do with leftovers? Share them! I don’t want the words to have died in vain. (Dear Coffee Gods, I just typed ‘vein,’ instead of ‘vain,’ initially. I find I do that a lot, especially with me and my. It’s as if my brain is hardwired to annoy me. Perhaps I can blame that on muscle memory. I don’t know.)

 Tomorrow, I have a fun, picture post planned. No, no. Not of me. Gutter minds, the lot of you.

Until then, I’ll be over here, slaughtering syllables.

  1. Andrea
    March 30, 2011 at 12:23 pm

    The editing process is always terribly painful for me. I hate cutting things because whether the words are good or bad, they’re still my words and I still took the time to form them in the first place. But, as you said, if it’s for the greater good of the story then it must be done. Also, I’ve never seen The Godfather. Add it to your list of movies I must eventually see.

    • Ali
      March 31, 2011 at 7:39 am

      Gah. You’re never seen The Godfather?! That’s SO going on your list. *grin*

      I totally agree with you, too — I think we just get attached to the things that we make. Unfortunately, some of them resemble those clay monstrosities we used to make in art class in middle school. Or was that just me? 🙂

  2. March 30, 2011 at 12:42 pm

    This may sound terrible, but it’s nice to see that others suffer as I do, when it comes to editing. My writing tends to be exceptionally long winded (hence the Rambling), so when I go back to edit I’m sometimes forced to get rid of entire paragraphs, and usually they’re the ones I enjoyed writing the most.

    I’m excited to see the what you’ve taken out, especially the sections that are so flowery they would make rainbows cry. 🙂

    • Ali
      March 31, 2011 at 7:40 am

      That doesn’t sound terrible at all. It’s reassuring to find out that it’s not just you. Trust me. I’ve felt that way before. I have been chopping entire paragraphs, and some of them had phrasing I just loved. I think I’m still pouting. *grin*

      I’m glad that you’re excited to see the outtakes! 🙂

  3. March 30, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    Gutterminds?! I’m terribly insulted, how dare you say that? The proper term is bedroom, not the gutter, thank you very much. Err, I mean…

    But yes, more seriously, I’m the biggest crying baby known to man about re-writes. You’d think each original line represented a radiant newborn that I am disemboweling with my backspace key.

    • Ali
      March 31, 2011 at 7:41 am

      That last sentence might be the most fantastic phrasing, ever. I may steal it. *grin*

  4. April 1, 2011 at 8:32 am

    Hey, listen, when you are in doubt about having to kill someone off or cut something out, go watch “Serenity”. Or read Deanna Raybourn – you know SHE is not shy about killing off people we like. 🙂

    • Ali
      April 1, 2011 at 8:36 am

      Serenity! I love that movie. And the tv show, too. Pretty much everything Whedon. *grin* And you are right — Deanna’s wise when it comes to who to murder in her novels. 🙂

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