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Killing Your Darlings

Revision is where the real work in writing begins. After the cycles of torment and relief, you finally get to put down that pen (or keyboard) and step away from the first draft that you poured you heart and soul (and many tears) into…Then dive right back in to start those cycles over again for your second and third—and then you lose count—drafts.

Personally, I find revision excruciating. It’s not that I think the first draft is perfect or that any criticism from my professors or peers is utter blasphemy. Revision is work, and when I mix work with writing, the whole creative process becomes one tedious job I have to put up with. After taking that much needed break between drafts and breaking down each sentence or line, you might find yourself desensitized towards your piece, and this is a double edged sword. Yes, you want to revise and edit your story with a clear mind, but you don’t want to stop caring about your story. If you don’t care, your reader won’t care.

So, how do we overcome this numbness?

You ask yourself either or both of these questions:

  1. Why did I write this piece? (You are expressing something inside you—an emotion, a sense of injustice, etc. That is the flicker of life for your piece, so don’t lose sight of it.)
  2. What is my favorite part of my piece? (It can be a line, a word, a character, a place, etc. This is the flavor of your piece—your way into the story)

Once you have the answer(s), write it down. Pin it to your wall, write it in your journal, or even just keep it in the back of your mind. Carry your piece around with you like a friend or a ghost—whatever works. If your connection to your piece becomes overwhelming, tell it “see you later,” but don’t say goodbye. You don’t want something that you put so much energy into to waste away in some drawer or forgotten file. Go back and visit it sooner rather than later so you and your piece can hang out and get to know each other better—like all good friends and enemies!

So if need be, kill your darlings, but try not to kill your love for your piece or for writing.

 

-Kejana Ayala

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