By Kathy Widenhouse, award-winning nonprofit content writer, website publisher, and author of 9 books.
An online devotional for writers
There’s a time to keep and a time to throw away; a time to tear and a time to mend. (Ecclesiastes 3:6-7)
Stephen King had this to say in On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft: “Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.”
Becoming too fond of a turn of phrase or a particular illustration, King said, puts a writer’s self-centeredness on display. Instead, writers should edit unnecessary words, sentences, storylines, characters, or any other element that required hard work to create – all for the sake of a clean, well-constructed piece.
King wasn’t the first to urge writers to ruthlessly edit their work. That bit of advice has been attributed to writers of all eras including Oscar Wilde, G.K. Chesterton, Anton Chekov, William Faulkner … and King Solomon.
Solomon’s famous passage in Ecclesiastes 3 explains that there’s a time and season for everything under heaven. “Everything” includes the edit of your story. Solomon breaks down the editing process into four tasks:
Too many writers don’t kill their darlings. On the other end of the spectrum, said Solomon, too many writers stay in edit mode forever.
Do your darlings advance your story? If not, then throw them away or tear them and mend them.
Then, at that point, you know what to keep. Move on from editing season. It’s time to share your story.
Editing means fixing, throwing away … and keeping.
I confess that I get attached to the words I write. Help me edit my work wisely. Show me what to throw away, what to fix, and what to keep.
In Jesus’s name, Amen.
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