The Importance of Letting Go

Kill your darlings.

Words a writer will hear over and over. But what does the saying really mean?

I thought I knew when I did my first revision. It wasn’t too bad. Go through what I’d written and take out the lines that didn’t work, even if I loved them. Rework the draft no matter what. A long task, but not as painful as it could have been. As I’d heard.

Then I started submitting.

To be clear, I didn’t submit “for the feedback.” I’d never do that–that’s mean to all involved. I just didn’t know what I didn’t know. And there was nothing really all that wrong with the manuscript. It was fine.

I heard that over and over during workshops and conferences. “It’s okay.” “It’s fine.” “Nothing wrong with it.” It did fairly well in the contest I entered. For the longest time, I wavered back and forth on whether I should revise again, especially after the contest win.

Then I received the best rejection of my life.

It was something like this: “The characters were interesting, but the writing just wasn’t compelling enough.” It hurt. It hit hard. I wondered if I should give up.

Then I killed my darlings.

During the last year, I’ve made a lot of writer friends. I’ve watched professional authors talk about rewriting entire manuscripts. And so the proverbial light bulb went off: Sometimes it isn’t a matter of reworking what is there.

Sometimes you have to let it go and start with a blank page.

It’s hard to cut loose the things you’ve written. The words that seemed so perfect at the time. But you know what? There’s a lot of freedom there, too.



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