Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Umm...How about You DON'T Kill Your Darlings?

Beyond the Margins takes a look at when writing advice is more witty than wise.

From the piece...

“Read over your compositions, and wherever you meet with a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.”
- Samuel Johnson

True confession: I do not think that’s good advice.

(Yep. I’m going to go there. . .)

In fact, I think it’s a load of horse hockey. Pithy horse hockey, no doubt, but horse hockey nonetheless. And I’ll go out even further on this limb: I believe it is self-evidently horse hockey if you really think it through.

Or as everyone is so fond of saying these days: Really, dude? wtf?

But first, the opposing view. Doctor Johnson’s clever sounding yet nonsensical remark has become orthodoxy in much of writing pedagogy. It’s called “killing your darlings,” a phrase most often attributed to William Faulkner, though the internet, that bastion of weird inaccuracy and intriguing possibility, also suggests that J.M. Barrie may have coined the phrase. Either way, it is frequently taken to mean exactly what Johnson says: If you are in love with a bit of your own work, it must be bad.

But guys, that makes absolutely no sense. Right?

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