You know that writing quote about "killing your darlings?" I was thinking about that today as I edited this 1st draft I'm working on. I think it's a really cool quote that urges writers to think of every component of their writing–each paragraph, each sentence, each word–as something that doesn't exist for its own sake but exists to serve the whole. You may write the purtiest most thoughtful sentence you've ever written in your life, but if it doesn't work to further the goals of the book then, the quote instructs, it's got to go.
This is one of those quotes that I think is awesome right up to the point where I think it might be total nonsense.
See, what I worry has happened is we've all taken this quote so seriously (myself included) that we've become delete key happy. Something doesn't fit right away? Delete it. Something seems just a little too pretty, a little too whimsical? Delete it. All those beautifully oddball paragraphs and scrappy orphan sentences? Delete! Delete! Delete!
I think the appeal of this is that doing it makes us feel like we're real writers. Weren't not some dilettante following our muse up our own butt. We're tough. We're merciless. We take no prisoners.
It's just so....fascist.
I mean, your darlings are your darlings. They're beautiful and awesome and sure, maybe that sentence doesn't seem to fit into the grand scheme of things right away, but maybe that means the grand scheme is wrong, not the sentence.
What I'm saying is, when you come to an oddball piece of writing, something you love but aren't sure has a place in your book, remember that you have a choice–You can delete it or you can try and find it a home. The first one is the safe choice, no doubt about it. But it you choose the later, if you let the unexpected or the oddball effect your writing then maybe, just maybe, you'll make your work richer and stranger and more interesting.