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To Kill a Darling Word #firstdrafts #editing #revising #rewriting » Jolana Malkston
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Aug 172016

O brilliant first draft. O miraculous manuscript containing all the exquisite phrases that sprang from my mind, fully formed like Athena from the skull of Zeus. O eloquent pages teeming with so many darling words, phrases, and scenes that I can hardly believe I wrote them myself.

Beautiful First Draft - Blog Post

Seriously? O typical first draft is more like it.

As such, it was a much too long exercise in exorcising the ideas and characters swirling around in my brain by typing them out of my mind and into a computer file to relieve the pressure on my skull from their insistence on being written. Whew! The end product of this exorcism was 600 pages of action, adventure, and romance in the 23rd century, interspersed with unavoidable side trips into first draft crap.

The exhilaration that came with completing the first draft of a manuscript, no matter how crappy, lasted a few idyllic days. My feet didn’t touch the ground. I never stopped smiling. I was nice to everyone, even people I couldn’t stand.

Once I came down out of the clouds I had to face reality, otherwise known as the rewrite. It was time to perform editorial surgery on the child of my imagination. Scary. I wasn’t sure I could bring myself to do it. With shaking hands, I fortified myself with a bagful of Lindt’s Lindor Extra Dark Chocolate Truffles. I probably would have done that anyway, but having to jump start the rewrite gave me a guilt-free excuse.

I began to pore over the annotated chapters from very productive sessions with my critique partner. I reviewed her comments about what she thought worked well and what didn’t. Wow, these chapters are sooooo long. No wonder the manuscript is page-heavy.

Gotta cut, gotta cut, gotta cut!


The first challenge appeared sooner than expected–in the first chapter. The scene, one of my favorites, was a funny one. Well, the exchange between the heroine and her alien BFF made me laugh. I read it and laughed. I then re-read it with increasing dread, because I realized that this one of my darlings did absolutely nothing to advance the plot or bring out a new facet of the relationship between the heroine and her alien BFF. It was a distraction and it slowed the story’s pace. It had to go.


I couldn’t believe that I was about to kill my darling funny scene. ::sob::  I selected the scene and paused, my finger hovering over the delete key. No. My finger pulled back. I could not consign my darling funny scene to oblivion. It deserved better.


In my manuscript’s directory, I created an Orphaned Scenes subdirectory. My darling funny scene entered its new home, perhaps to live again in another manuscript–maybe in a sequel. I said farewell and soldiered on, continuing to read my manuscript with a critical eye.

Two things occurred to me early on. First, that my darling funny scene would eventually have lots of company. Second, I was going to need several more bags of Lindt’s Lindor Extra Dark Chocolate Truffles.

Lindt's Lindor Extra Dark Chocolate Truffles

  2 Responses to “To Kill a Darling Word #firstdrafts #editing #revising #rewriting”

  1. Having just finished my book last week, I sure can relate. Now the work begins, but oh what a joy to get that last word written!

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