Friday, April 26, 2013

[Link] Editing Your Own Work: How to Dismember Your Darlings

by Jasper Bark

Sir Arthur Quiller Couch, the patron saint of modern grammar nazis and bedroom blog critiques, famously said: “writing is murdering your darlings”. While this quote might suggest that it probably is a good idea to keep most writers locked in their studies for days on end without any human contact, or a change of underwear, it’s not actually because they have homicidal tendencies.

I’ll quite happily admit it’s not a good idea to marry a writer, not because you’ll fear for your life every time they dig a big hole in the back garden (it probably is just for that triffid they’ve always wanted to grow). It’s simply because they’re not legendary for the size of their pay packets. I’ll also agree that you shouldn’t leave them in charge of a room full of school children, but only because of their irregular underwear habits, not because you’ll have another Columbine on your hands.

What the Edwardian uber-critic Sir Arthur was actually getting at was the ruthlessness with which all writers should approach their work, especially when it comes to editing. I’m quite aware of what a painful chore editing can be. So much thought, so much effort and so many beautiful words went into your story and now you have to throw some of them away forever. It’s like clearing out your bookshelves and deciding which of your six copies of Farenheit 451 you’re going to get rid of. The old battered edition was the copy you read in school, whereas this one has a really cool Kelly Freas cover – oh, and you bought this one cos the gorgeous book seller recommended it and that eventually got you laid. I mean how often does a book purchase get you LAID, you can’t part with this one…

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