As I was editing today, I came across a wonderful sentence I wrote. It was concise, witty, and charmingly written. So, I highlighted the sentence and pressed Delete.
This was what William Faulkner meant by “In writing, you must kill all your darlings.” It doesn’t matter how well-written or clever a sentence, a scene, or a character may be. If it doesn’t further the story, get rid of it. In fact, clever writing usually doesn’t further a story because it draws too much attention to itself.
An advantage of writing on a computer is that I can kill those darling bits of writing without hesitation. I can always click Undo or go to a backup if I find that I really need that text. Usually, I don’t.
For me, the story matters more than the quirky character or deft turn of phrase. If they don’t serve the story, they’re out. That’s what it means to “kill your darlings” in writing.