Washington Post columnist Sally Jenkins discussed in a recent interview some words of wisdom once shared by her father, Dan Jenkins, the legendary sportswriter and author.
You can tell how good a story will be, he told her, by how much good stuff you leave on the cutting room floor. How true, and also how painful. It can be easy to fall in love with each intriguing detail, clever line or character we weave into our creative work. However, the unfortunate truth is that some of these elements are unnecessary distractions from the point of the piece.
While editing, there are times when we’ll have to admit that we are losing the narrative, creating the risk that we’ll also lose the audience by venturing down avenues with insufficient payoff. We have to be disciplined enough to hit the delete key. Or as author Stephen King bluntly put it in his book, “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.”
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