Killing your Darlings

In the world of writing, Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch advised students to “murder their darlings” in a lecture, and as I revise, I find I am reluctant to murder my darlings, but I’m doing my best to be brutal.

Some lines, no matter how beautifully they’re phrased, must simply be abandoned.

I keep a small notebook with phrases I adore from my murdering stage of my writing. I call it my Homeless File. It’s where lines that are homeless lay their heads to rest, a small trashcan fire burning to keep them warm.

Today, as I revised my novel, I came across one:

Ghosts of an unremarkable past haunted her.

Those words are beautiful to me and conjure up images of a mundane life now gone, but alas, the sentence was unnecessary, so it goes into the Homeless File.

The beauty of the Homeless File is that I can discover other beautiful fragmentary thoughts that add to my appreciation of language and maybe some day, can incorporate into a story or poem.

Ribbon my soul/and graft/the missing pieces onto your heart.

These words, alone, might not sound like much, but they all hold a place in my heart because though I might have given up their ghosts in their earlier works, this does not mean they will not find a home elsewhere.

I have lived so many lives/you might as well call me/a matryoshka doll/(Stacked inside of each other/to keep warm & cozy/we can be our own best friends./Whoever needed anybody else?)

I feel every author should have a Homeless File.

What do you think? Do any of my fellow authors keep the darlings that they kill?

I’m starting to wonder if it’s more of a morgue than a Homeless File.