A matter of life and death!

Kill your Darlings.

This is probably one of the most wretched phrases a writer ever has to grapple with. I’m guessing it settles itself just beneath Thank you, but no thank you, we’re going to pass.

Maybe it ties with Well, I’ve read some of your writing … You sure you want to be a writer? How about farming—what do you think of farming? Or trucking. Can you drive a big rig?

I say let’s find the old curmudgeon who came up with the satanic slogan and string him up by his toes. I could use some practice with dismemberment before I start hacking away at my manuscript. That’s what it’s about essentially: the death of all you love.

For those of you who’ve never come across this sinful suggestion in your line of work, you may consider yourselves lucky. You also may consider yourselves confused as to what I’m going on about.

A quick catchup: a long dead author—accurately identifying the name of said author can lather up writers into an unholy fractious state, so apart from classifying him as an English killjoy, we shall leave his name out of this—mistakenly believed the best way to win friends and influence people in the writing world was to inform them that the bits they loved most about their text were ALL GARBAGE and to basically take a hatchet to it.

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Okay, maybe I’m a little uptight at the moment and I’m unfairly criticizing what has become a sage rule of thumb to most authors, but only because it’s such a gleeful phrase for any editor to write. Take out all the fluff. Get rid of your purple prose. Find a sentence and ask yourself, Do I like this? If the answer is yes, then slash it. Delete it. Dump it. Kill your darlings.

Yes. I’m in the middle of editing right now, but perhaps you guessed that from my cheerful tone.

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This dreadful phrase is nothing more than a literary expression. Fairly innocuous to express. But putting it into action is akin to stripping away a layer of skin that you actually found attractive, warm, and cushioning. It also keeps several quarts of blood from oozing out of your flesh, but editors aren’t fussed about that. It’s the bare bones of beauty that we’re after, they say. We want only what’s relevant, only what moves the story forward, no frilly ornamentation.

I think my skin is fairly relevant.

And it allows me to move forward, as without my ‘ornamental’ skin I’d certainly never leave the house.

Putting oneself in a murderous state of mind seems easy at first. You read the advice from your agent or your editor or your critique group to simply “cut out about thirty pages.”

Thirty pages? At about 275 words per page? We’re talking more than 8000 words! That’s a huge amount of work. I don’t even say 8000 words in one week, so imagine how long it takes me to think up 8000 acceptable words to place in the manuscript?

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I pace a lot during this process. I slide down a lot of walls. I drape myself across the dog for comfort. I cry. I bargain. I bake cookies. I eat cookies.

Occasionally I find a word to delete.

It’s usually because I’ve combined two words into a contraction.

It is a miserable process.

I have just finished weeks of working—rewriting a 400 page manuscript that needed thirty pages sliced. I only sawed off twenty. I must begin the entire process again. And then again if needed. I’m thinking about removing one entire page for every forty that I read. Fingers crossed nothing dramatic happens on each of those pages, but perhaps I could sell them separately. We could offer the Editor’s Edition (370 pages), or the Author’s Edition (380 pages) and see which one shows better sales from the marketing department. Clearly we’d have to label the Editor’s Edition as a mystery because the reader will have to fill in the missing bits of nearly three percent of the book.

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And don’t forget, publishers always add those extra blank pages at the front and back of every book. Surely that should count for something, right?

(One can clearly see I’ve morphed back into the bargaining phase.)

(And now I’ve just fired up the oven.)

Regardless of how many cookies I shove into my gob, the work must happen. As long as I’m in my kitchen I shall sharpen my knives, hone their edges, make them gleam.

And now I am prepared. Prepared to continue killing my darlings.

As scared to death of this contemptible process as I am, I shall knock on death’s door, dance with death, deal a death blow, fight to the death and sound the death knell.

Egads, this murdering business will surely be the death of me.



HI MOM’S CULT BLOGOSPHERE AUDIENCE! I’m Chloe, her daughter, I guest-blogged here once. You might know me from all the complaining she regularly does about my high school life. ANYWAY. I am attempting to launch a weather balloon with cool science on it for the fun of it/to learn stuff/to save the world from its inevitable demise at the hands of muons. If you like science/space/me/my mom/being a generally cool person, please check out my fundraising campaign on Indiegogo! 
I’d greatly appreciate any support, as my parents are pretty sick and tired of my failed bottle rocket experiments and have refused to fund any more adventures into the great beyond.


May Gotta Have a Gott winner

In January, Rob and I announced that his sketches will be available toward the end of the year in the form of a 2015 calendar! And our readers would get to be the judges and voters for which doodles they’d like to see selected for each month. We’ll reveal the winners one by one, and come November, If you’ve Gotta have a GOTT, you can place your order. Jump on over to see the cartoon winner for May!

Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all talked about down in the pub. Plus, you can see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone.

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76 thoughts on “A matter of life and death!

  1. God, I loathe that phrase. Kill your darlings? Fuck that.

    What’s your best feature? Would you burn it off your body with a fireplace poker? What’s your favorite outfit? Would you cut it into sixteen equal sections and use it to polish the furniture? What’s your favorite color? Would you agree to eye surgery to eliminate it from your perception forever? Which of your children is your favorite? Would you kill them to even out the set? (Don’t let Chloe read this.)

    The stuff you love is the whole reason you came to Earth in the first place. You took this ticket to have some fun and see how YOU you could be. Any dude who tells you different is suffering some sort of self-flagellating, uber-codependent work ethic flashback. Someone with a stick up their ass critiqued his stuff, he listened when he should have said “Bite me” in a 1930s southern drawl, and the wound to his psyche has been dripping down the insides of writer’s minds ever since.

    Editing is different. Only you can edit your stuff. Only you know which are the good parts. Editor doesn’t agree? He’s not a darling, he can go. There are plenty of long-ass classics on the bookshelves. Who says you aren’t the next?

    • Were you raised by a pack of editors and were lucky enough to leap from their nest to your world of joyous freedom? Ha! I can’t imagine anyone having luck directing you to somewhere you had not already determined was the exact place you wanted to be, whether it was scaling mountains, parting nature’s blizzards with nothing but the wave of your hands, or writing a thank you note.
      I certainly hope the world has a chance to read your stories one day, Anna. And I would hope that any editor lucky enough to take on the position as “coach” for you project was prepared for the adventure.
      Thanks for the words of support! 🙂

      • Yowza, now THAT’S how you compliment someone. I almost believe it, too, deep down past the layers of inertia and regret about not cleaning up the sewing room or posting an adventure on WordPress in over a month.

        By the way, you are an Olympian pet namer and your kids are a little too good-looking to be real. I half expect to turn ’em over and find “Made In Sweden.”

    • Ok,

      I was being gentle but Scheiße… I like this writer’s response! Listen to this person Shelley and write for you! Follow the footsteps of J.K Rowling if you must. You must write for you and your readers will arrive. You attract what you are and you are a brilliant author.

      I await your books my love. Now, back to my Filets de Sole Clarence before it burns.

      Stoshu 🙂

        • Have we perhaps met in a previous life? I wish you could have met my English professor and offered your “radical” and unabridged sentiments to him, as highly intellectual as he was… for his time.

          See Shelley, you have authenticity. Don’t ever let that go. God speed to your readers as they seem so very supportive.

          Oh, and I like being considered a winner, for whatever fashion it may be. You made my day.

          Stoshu 🙂

          • There’s a couple “radical” and “unabridged” epithets I’d like to hurl at my own English professors. Of all the voyeuristic, narcissistic, insecure hacks in the world, I had to get the one trying to live down a wife with a Pulitzer: shriveled penis, anyone?

            Sometimes I think the Creative Writing department was nothing more than a collection of failed psychiatrists trying to sell their memoirs under a different name. The infantilism they embodied and then projected onto their students was cringe worthy.

            But I’m not bitter.

  2. I guess it’s all a matter of perspective. (Yours being peak and all. *attempts wit*) Perhaps if you put yourself in the mindset of a clutter clearer, viewing the idea of ridding yourself of things (in this case words) as an exciting challenge. Allow yourself to get excited about seeing how few words can be used to convey what you want to convey. The idea of minimalism — cutting to the bone — is a bit harsh, & it’s understandable you’d be reluctant to go there with your writing. However, have you considered aiming for “enoughism?” Rather than bare bones, you’d have the bone structure showing through with a bit of enticing, shapely padding on top. Do it right and you’ll have enough words to carry the story forward without any extra baggage. What sayest thou?

    • I say Tana speaks sage words. 🙂

      I love the idea of “clutter clearer.” And of course, love the fact that you’re always seeing things from the most positive of perspectives. It’s what makes you such a delight to read, Tana. Thanks for the wisdom.

  3. Michelangelo was known for starting with a massive chunk of stone, then chipping away all the crap to reveal the sculpture that was already inside the stone. I’ve tried this reductive process when drawing cartoons. Start with a blank sheet of paper, scribble like a lunatic until the paper is totally black, then rub out all the stuff that you don’t want until just the drawing remains.
    Actually, I haven’t tried it and I won’t be trying it. It’s a pretty stupid idea!
    Imagine applying the “kill your darlings” approach to cooking a meal – You dip a spoon into the pan to taste it.”Wow! This tastes REALLY good!!” So you chuck it down the waste disposal.
    Smart, eh? 🙂

    • Ha! There goes that cassoulet that took me three days to make.
      But I’ll keep the pork casings and the duck comfit bones.
      Crunch on those for dinner, kids.
      Yeah, doesn’t work for cooking.
      (Can’t get the image of you at the kitchen table attempting your new “reductive process” out of my head.)

  4. I’m there with ‘all thoughts work’. Someone is probably squirming in his grave, saying- “But I didn’t quite mean it that way!” Yes, there are things to be stripped back in the light of another day, but at what point to draw the line of darlings. Otherwise, why write?
    Happy editing. 🙂

    • Of course the big problem is being too close to your own writing. And working with each scene and each character for years. Eliminating parts of their dialogue and experience is a bit like rewriting history. And a history that one almost believed took place. It feels a little fraudulent at times.
      I have to tell myself that I glancing over at their “parallel universe.”
      Thanks for the encouragement. 😛

  5. If it was just a matter of space, I’d say reduce the font size! Sometimes you have to ask if they actually READ the whole thing.
    I like the idea of Editor’s Edition and Author’s Edition though. Bit like Avatar original theatrical edition, Avatar extended edition, and Avatar Special Extended edition (or Aliens original and specials, or The Abyss original and special edition. Note all As, though Dances With Wolves extended edition only available on video in widescreen at almost 4 hours was brilliant, true to the book, and added depth to the whole thing, but I digress, delete and ‘kill’).
    Hell, the idea of a book is to have a Damn Good Read!

  6. I love “kill your darlings”. It’s a great expression for a crucial part of editing and revision. If I’m not moving sections of much loved prose into my “sadly deleted” folder, I ask others to root out the weaknesses for me. Be cold. Be merciless. Don’t coddle your work; no one else will. That’s how I see it. 😀

    • Be cold. Be merciless. Don’t coddle–I swear you’ve tuned into my method of parenting.
      If I’d recognized that I already possess those skills, it might have saved me years of grieving. 🙂

      I love the fact that someone has embraced the motto with fervor and finds a thrill in the method. Quite liberating, right?
      I shall carry on.

      • It was my mother’s method as well, and t seems to have worked out all right.

        It is liberating. But my trick is that I never actually kill my darlings. I just exile them out of the MS. 😉

            • Okay, Nicky, you MUST be an editor in disguise, right? Or a have a slightly sadistic nature? Wait … I remember reading about you and Alex going to the spa and nearly getting beaten to death having a “massage” and one of you seemed to really enjoy it, whilst the other–not so much.
              Now things are beginning to make sense.
              I’d also bet you have incredibly clean, crisp manuscripts that would make any editor nearly fall to their knees with a, “Halleluja!” 😛

              • Haha, if I do, it’s only because of the tireless efforts of my beta readers who I’m sure are wondering if I ever passed high school English. 😛

  7. I too have had it with the Creative Writing Police. As well as telling us to ‘kill our darlings’, they advise us to avoid adverbs, adjectives and passive verbs, plus a whole list of ‘no-no’ words including ‘just’, ‘quite’, ‘rather’, ‘well’, and ‘was’. Soon they will be adding ‘and’, ‘the’ and ‘a’ to that list. Or possibly telling us not to use words at all. Maybe my next project should be to publish a notebook of blank pages and have the readers imagine the story for themselves.

    • Best seller I bet.
      Sort of like the Emperor’s New Clothes?
      If you figure out a way to make that happen, Annabelle, you are going to be one revered woman in the publishing world. 😛

    • There’s a HUGE market for those books already. They’re known as journals. Some who own such “books” write their stories. Others doodle them. Still others do both. (There are even those who scapbook and collage their journals.)

      With writing (as with most things) there’s always a trade-off. Do it your way, the way you want. Stick to your guns. And, it may or may not work as you expect/anticipate/hope. Do it their way. Defer to the Thems and Theys you trust to know more about what you hope to accomplish and who will indeed get you to where you want to go. That too may or may not work as you expect/anticipate/hope.

      In the end it boils down to which you believe will give you the better odds for getting what and where you want. Much easier answering that question in hindsight than foresight. 🙂

  8. Maybe you don’t have to “kill” your darlings? You can always just knock them unconscious with a bop on the head, or shoot them with a “shoulder shot”, like all movie heroes seem to get. Then you tie them to a chair in the attic or basement and decide what to do with them later. The only problem with this is that most movie heroes, when put into this situation, manage to escape and come back back to fight another day. Maybe there’s a little movie franchise to be made here. First movie is called “Kill Your Darlings”, sequel is called “The Return of the Darlings”?

  9. Oh, Shelley, Shelley, Shelley, I feel your pain. (Actually, I can’t feel the full extent of your pain, because I’ve never written anything longer than 78,000 words. And that was agony. And I’ll never do it again.) Though I don’t write novel-length fiction, I generally end up reducing the word count of my stories by at least a third during revisions. I strive for minimalism in my writing (though you wouldn’t know it by reading my comments here!), and I am quick to wield the red pen, eliminating hundreds of words from a 2,000-word short story in a single sitting. But I have felt that agony of reducing a story to its bare bones in order to comply with a maximum word count, only to find that I’m still 100 words over the limit, and I just don’t know what else can be cut. As for the saying “kill your darlings,” I always saw it attributed to Stephen King and figured he coined it. And every time I read it, I mentally give it the raspberry. There are plenty of successful authors out there who describe themselves as lyrical writers–they delight in wordy descriptions and flowery prose. They don’t give adjectives and adverbs the stink eye. And people love reading their books. As painful as this process is for you right now, I have no doubt in your ability to strike a fine balance between bare-bones minimalism and the purplest of prose. And I have to say, Chloe’s project sounds awesome! We have got to get the word out about this! I will definitely be supporting this worthy cause. I know you must be super proud of her, Shelley. Not only is she brilliant, but I can tell from her writing that she’s also inherited your wonderful, wry sense of humor.

    • You do pack a massive amount into your comments, Miranda, but I would not edit ONE SINGLE WORD of them! They are always way too precious to me. 🙂

      I’ve always loved Hemingway’s ability to write effortlessly with a bare bone structure, but there are countless authors whose talents are revealed with deft skill in turning a phrase, making a point grow illuminated with adding on a specific grouping of words that add depth and breadth to something I already understand. And I’m grateful for their extra efforts. Plus, I have massive respect for your ability to convey so much in your itsy bitsy haikus. They are bite-sized confectionery perfection.

      I especially love the idea of you mentally giving the wicked editing phrase a raspberry. I’m going to give that a go. I thank you for all the kind words of encouragement as always, Miranda.

      And my HUGE thanks for recognizing Chloe’s pitch. (Not to mention the worthiness of it.) You really are someone I wish I could reach through the monitor to give a big, squishy hug to. Consider it done. 🙂

  10. GAH! I’m getting anxious just reading this! Not exactly known for my brevity, I think I might spontaneously self-combust if I tried to edit my own words. 🙂
    Good luck to you Shelley! You have my deepest sympathy.

    • Shed that anxiety, Nancy. I go through this venting process several times a year. With so many manuscripts in various stages of the editorial process, I’m very used to the idea of rewrites. It’s just when the work comes precariously close to being called “completed” by all the many folks involved in its completion, that’s when I start to sweat bullets.
      In the end, it will be better for it. Scars across my flesh and all. 😛

  11. Thanks, Shelley, for a hilarious post. Love your take on this! “It’s usually because I’ve combined two words into a contraction.” LOL! I try to take the advice of “kill your darlings” to mean “they may be your darlings, but not your audience’s darlings.” Since we’re not writing for ourselves, we need to keep this in mind. I feel your pain, though…murdering your words is darn painful!

    • I think you nailed one of the most important concepts here, Sue. It would be so much easier if we were simply writing for ourselves. And then all those manuscripts just get shelved in our happy place trophy case. But we hunger to share our words and thoughts with others–and in trade, they share their words and thoughts with us. Some of them in critique form. Ouch.
      Your is a good mantra to keep in mind. I may just post it on my office wall. Cheers!

  12. I am sorry for your predicament but it did make for a quite entertaining post! Good luck with everything; I know the final piece will be great!! 🙂

  13. Shelley,

    I would guess even Tolstoy would offer you a sabbatical from your editorial creative pros as it sounds you perhaps have been pushed beyond your personal writing bounds.

    Write for you, as you always have and do so well. Stop writing for those who tell you what sells or what is current to the minds of the publishers. (Just ask Cleo… where would Einstein have gotten if he listened to all of his critics). You are and write brilliantly. I’ve always have and continue to enjoy your use of words, rhythms and wondrously audacious muses. Your reflections are written with such forefront honesty that it brings comfort and truthfulness to one’s mind.

    That, or perhaps a good glass of Scotch might help.


    As for your cause, let me know how I can help. You, my dear I believe will some day be the drafts(woman) of our first human colony on some distant planet and I want in.

    Much love and respect to all,

    Stoshu 🙂

    • Thanks, buddy. I did just have a little sabbatical from the editing extravaganza festival. I did some laundry. Whew! What a rush.
      Back to words. Folding socks and underwear can be equally as taxing.

      And as far as helping out CHLOE, feel free to send the link on to anyone who might like to offer a dollar or two to the world of space exploration. Spread the word, embrace space. ❤

  14. Shelley and CHLOE (what’s with the spelling thingy? Sheeze), I’ll be passing the word tomorrow and the following week at the medical center (as next week is National Hospital Week) to cough up a buck or more for her cause with our staff. Be it that she receives one dollar or more, I’ll do my best. Our facility (being non profit), the staff are very generous.

    Cleo, send me more pertinent information. I can use it to sell your story. My salmon is burning and I don’t want my Farro mango salsa to turn tart.

    Stoshu 🙂

  15. Ugh, it hurt to read this…not because of your writing obviously, but it was just so darn recognizable! When I first started writing I was about as pro-life as can be, with my first blogs becoming endless parades of thoughts, sub-thoughts, sub-sub thoughts and mindless meanderings I thought made me look smart, even though I’m not quite sure if I use the word ‘meandering’ correctly…
    Nowadays i still don’t kill my darlings. I just put them in suspended animation, hoping I will one day have a use for them. Seriously, I have an entire document filled with punchlines in need of a context. For instance, I figured a the word ‘gonorrea’ is perfect, because it’s the one disease that sounds exactly as disgusting as it is, but somehow I haven’t been blessed with the opportunity to work it into a blog or conversation and I figured it will hurt my already very tepid social life if I put it on Facebook.
    Those are the kind of ‘darlings’ I hold onto:S

    Anyway, speaking of darlngs (and I do apologize for the using gonorrea as transitional material), I checked out your daughter’s website and think she’s doing something awesome. I used to think science projects entailed setting stuff on fire in a school’s auditorium, not sending stuff up to the upper atmosphere! I wanted to donate a little bit in aid of her effort, but the website only has a credit card payment option, and I don’t have a credit card…do you know if there’s another way I could make up for my gonorrea meandering by supporting Chloe’s efforts (i.e. paypal)?

    • Oh, Lennard, I think you could ramble on about nearly everything, especially STDs, and I’d be sad to see the meandering end. You and your staff have one of the most unique and eclectic voices–I think of you guys as like the literary Muppets. Priceless stuff.

      I know an incredibly talent blogger who this week managed to work into a very short haiku the word ‘spaghettification.’ Yeah, I know, right? Check her out-it’ll only take a second, but it’ll be worth it.

      And I checked with Chloe – PAYPAL WORKS! I made my son use it yesterday. He “happily” agreed to give up half his weekly allowance to further science.
      Regardless–whether or not you find you can–my huge thanks for even considering it. My best to the rest of the clan. 😛

      • Literary muppets? Wow, I like that, though I doubt Kim Jong Un will be pleased by that comparison;)

        Thanks for pointing me head towards Miranda Stone. She makes me want to use the word ‘spaghettification’ in conversation, which I think is a great compliment to any writer;)

        Also, don’t mean to be a nuisance, but how does Paypal work exactly in this case, cause the site I wanted to donate on only had a credit card option. Do you know of an email address I can use to make the payment (a very modest payment I should say, our site’s muppets are not nearly as wealthy as Kermit)

        • Okay, my bad, my son paid with his Visa debit card, but Chloe said she was on it tonight (after studying for the big Calc test, the big Bio test and the big Physics test)–and since this child never sleeps, I’m going to guess Paypal shall be investigated tout de suite. I promise to let you know if she’s successful, but again, regardless, my huge thanks for even attempting. 🙂

  16. Recently I decided to read the Game of Thrones series people have been raving about. I bought a used copy of the first book at my church bazaar for $1.00. When I got to the bottom of page 325 and turned to what should have been 326, I discovered there was a manufacturer’s error and I was at page 346 instead. Twenty whole pages were missing from the book. I had no option to keep reading and I DIDN’T MISS ANY OF THE PLOT.
    God prevent me from writing a book that can be missing twenty pages without affecting the story.
    I’m sure George R.R. Martin thought every one of those words was a darling. But he needed to mercilessly kill fewer of his characters and more of his words.
    I find it eerie how often applying “Murder your darlings” to your writing improves the story . So very often the sentences and phrases that we love the most are the ones that are self-indulgent and not authentic to the story.
    I’m not saying it’s easy. It is torturous. But I do think it’s necessary.

    • Oh what a sad day for Mr. Martin! But I know exactly what you mean as currently I’m in the middle of a highly revered author’s book, which I’m listening to in the audio version. I feel totally let down by the hype, by the fact that it’s considered to be a great work of literary fiction, and that I must be the only person to listen to it with the irrepressible urge to fast forward through dragging sections. The story is just not moving! And then I panic and think I must be morphing into one of the masses who can only stand bite-sized chunks of info and have the attention span the size of a gnat.

      And yes, it’s probably true that in writing I may be self-indulgent, but I think what bothers me most is the need to “fit” into the traditional genre specifications. If a story needs to be 400 pages,

        and it’s clean

      , let it be – or break it in two if need be. I just don’t want to shave off bits because of publishing’s traditional standards.

  17. Great post, with amazing comments to go along with it. Since many of the comments appear to be from other professional writers (I’m not one of them), I’m too embarrassed to offer adequate advice or counsel. I do remember attending the reading of a children’s book by Australian writer Mem Fox. She talked about her process: they accept her book, then tell her to completely rewrite. I don’t know how anyone has the stomach for it.

    I’m glad you do. I love your writing style.

    Oh wait…I just thought of some useful advice: can you change the size of the font?

    • Oh, shucks, Alys, what a nice thing to say.

      And sadly, no, writing font tricks are reserved for high school boys (I’ve got one of ’em), who think most teachers are too tired to bother or will be pleased they don’t have to use their specs. This is simply my regular routine of finding a healthy way to vent on the inevitable pains of birthing a book. When this process is over (and at some point it does finish-whew!) I’ll be all doe-eyed at the process of going through it all over again. The results are usually, almost always worth it. 😛

      • “…pleased they don’t have to use their specs.” LOL, that is funny.

        I’m awestruck that you write and publish books, then go back and do it again. It is like birthing a baby, except they don’t talk back, or become a sullen teenager.

        Can’t wait to learn more about it.

  18. YES. YES. YESSSS! I like the motto, but I think (as I mentioned on a post myself several weeks ago) that the rule can be read a multitude of ways, and can sometimes go too far. I like a little cushion between action. It gives my brain a period of time to amalgamate all I’ve learned about the characters and care a little more for the climax (because I barrel through books and always feel like the climax came on too suddenly). I mean… I don’t want a subplot that has no bearing anywhere else in the story, but a little cushion. No harm in that. 🙂

    • Really good point, Alex. And although I’m not one capable of barreling through books, I do appreciate the ability to reflect a little in between chapters and find listening to audio books in my car a perfect way to gain some much needed thinking in between drives.
      And are you referring to your U is for Unabridged blog post? That was a terrific one.

  19. Having taught writing, for many years, I always encourage my students “to show, not tell,” in their work and to create first, edit last. When I edit books, I use the same formula. I love writers, I love the way they express themselves in all manner of ways, and I love to help them form their message so it is both for them and the reader. If Stephen King said,”Kill your darlings,” he should have taken his own advice in some of his novels. If it helps, read your writing out loud. Listen for passages that may be too wordy or tend to obfuscate or slow down the action. A lot of times, the ear will hear what the eye refuses to see. Read your own work as if you were reading someone else’s work. You are a talented writer. You’ll know what to do.

    • Show, don’t tell. Now that is a golden rule I adore. It’s a little like walking the walk and not just blethering on about how fancy your footsteps are.
      And yes, I think the reading aloud bit is critical.
      Oftentimes I’ll have my hound listen with me as I read. I’m always amazed at how often he puts a big paw right up on my leg to get my attention and request that I stop. Although it might be because I’m usually eating a ham sandwich while doing the read through.
      Could be.
      Many thanks for your sage advice, Professor. Cheers to you and your fine guidance!

    • Many thanks for saying so. And visiting your blog is really like visiting a garden right in the middle of my work day. A respite for the eye, a dreamy wish for the nose. Beautiful photos!

  20. In writing self review annual school reports I did the social studies dept one. The administrators would always send them back saying “too much – cut”. I usually added a few paragraphs. It always got approved.

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