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[Easy Chair]

Spare the Darling

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Though I have been hearing (or rather reading) it a lot lately in many venues, it was a little odd — even a bit unsettling — to read it in the New York Times:

My favorite part of writing is taking stuff out. “In writing, you must kill all your darlings,” William Faulkner famously wrote, suggesting that the process of self-editing requires stoicism and the suppression of a natural affection. Samuel Johnson said something similar: “Read over your compositions and, wherever you meet with a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.”

The author was the novelist and story writer Pamela Ehrens, and her Times piece, called “The Joys of Trimming,” appeared in a series about the craft of writing. Ehrens does not mind killing her darlings; she likes writing stuff and then taking stuff out of it: “I feel a rush that is a bit like being airborne. For every word I cut, I seem to have more space between my ribs, more lung capacity. I feel simpler and calmer, my head pleasantly lighter.” When an editor takes out still more stuff she is even better pleased: “I love editors who get rid of things.”

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