I’m a big proponent of self-editing and teaching writers how to tackle revisions on their own. I’ve given talks to writers’ groups, presented at writers’ conferences, and blogged about it before (see below for further reading). Self-editing is the difference between a novice and and someone who has trained in their craft.
So many times I get asked “Should I hire an external editor?” And I always direct writers to teach themselves editing and revision skills before going elsewhere. It’s a life skill for a career author.
Here are my 4 Reasons Why You Must Kill Your Darlings:
1. There is only one chance to make a first impression
You want to make reading your manuscript a smooth and enjoyable experience for the reader. Edit and rewrite so that your novel begins in the right place, the stakes are high, and the plot moves quickly. When you send your manuscript to an agent we have to make judgments quite quickly about your novel and your writing.
2. It’s competitive out there
What agents hear a lot is: “Why do I need to edit my own manuscript? My editor will do that for me.” When actually, the competition is so fierce out there that you must have an edited manuscript long before you get an editor at a publishing house.
The competition for an agent is tough. The competition for a publishing deal is tough. And most importantly, the competition for readers is tough.
3. A first draft is not a final draft
Getting a first draft done commands a high-five and a large glass of wine. It’s a major accomplishment. However, that’s not where the work stops. You need to edit for consistency, rewrite dialogue so that it shows characters’ personality, and most importantly, show not tell.
4. Because you CAN continue to write great sentences
Killing your darlings and cutting phrases that might be well-written but don’t work at a certain juncture doesn’t mean your writing is bad. It means you can craft great writing, but it doesn’t work in this spot. If you wrote a great sentence once, you can do it again. Editing and rewriting is also part of writing. The work is never done.
Cut anything that is:
- Overly wordy
- Confusing to the reader
- Not moving the plot forward
- And obviously, grammatically incorrect
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Brown and Dave King