Killing Your Darlings
Intern Jessica struggles with the challenges of editing her work, but this is a valuable skill to develop whether she is writing for herself or one of our ghost blogging clients. Read on to discover what she has learned so far.
Haven’t we all experienced that sensation when we write something brilliant and fantastic and… reality check. Our priceless gem of a draft is returned to us bloody with red pen. As much as it pains us, writers have to learn to not fear the red pen or the delete button.
“Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.” -Stephen King
King’s harsher take on William Faulkner’s famous quote asks writers to put their egos aside. You’ve got to be your own worst critic, swallow your pride and accept that your thoughts may not translate well to your audience. Your witty joke could actually be distracting from your main point. When you’re writing blogs or other marketing materials, you have to remember your audience. Your audience wants you to get to the point and not beat around the bush. If cutting right to the punchline means deleting some of your “darlings,” close your eyes, press the button and don’t look back.
For those of us who write for a living, this can be especially challenging. Our most prized sentences are often the most distracting. Those finely wrought phrases that fill us with glee can come off as too “writer-y” (as Allison likes to call it). But your darlings can sometimes take your writing to the next level. If something really great pops in your mind and leads to a whole new stream of ideas, jot it down. But once your piece is more mature, it’s time to begin the slaughter.
So how do you know when to pull the trigger? Think like your audience. Roundpeg’s clients, for example, expect a fun and conversational approach full of great information. Our readers don’t want heavy metaphors dripping with huge words and intense imagery. Here’s the harsh reality: sometimes you are not your target audience. When reading your draft back to yourself, wear the audience’s mask. Think like them, write for them and save your more “writer-y” ramblings for a different arena.
This industry requires writers to critique themselves every day. I’d better get used to it.