Don’t Kill Your Darlings

There are so many tidbits to share after my two weeks with the Disquiet Literary Program in Lisbon, too many to fit here.  I’ll add more in the future but wanted to explore this thought from David Leavitt.  I participated in his non-fiction track and had a fantastic group of writers in my workshop.  David shared the idea that you don’t have to kill your darlings, as we’re so often told to do.  Instead, he asked us to consider the shape of the novel, memoir, story, or paragraph.  Does having that something in there ruin the shape of the piece?  If by removing that part, do you feeling as if something is missing?  I want to start incorporating these concepts into my editing.  Someone suggested creating a folder of what you cut in case you do miss it and you can add it back in.  I think so much good writing is left on the floor, but just because it’s good doesn’t make it fit the piece.

I’m an overwriter.  I can write for days and days, but for me, it’s a matter of learning how to cut back down to the meat of the story—the shape.  There was a woman in my group who was a minimalist writer, and I envied her clean prose and the white space on her page.  The breath she built into her form.  John Hennessy, poet and poetry editor of The Common, had a workshop on editing poetry.  I’m not a poet, but I figure they know how to edit better than anyone else, so I sat in.  He talked about creating breath and space and using line breaks, white space, breathing room, even in prose, to form the physical shape along with the idea shape.  These are such abstract ideas, the shape of the piece, but I feel as if keeping that in mind as I edit a piece, I can scrutinize what I’m doing that much better.

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