PubCrawl Podcast: Troubleshooting Craft – Kill Your Darlings

This week Kelly and JJ embark on their series on troubleshooting writing craft issues. In this episode, they discuss the adage “Kill your darlings”: what it means, how to identify it, and how to fix it. Also, we’re apparently in the midst of the summer doldrums, so not a lot of reading or recommendations this week.

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Show Notes

  • Kill Your Darlings, and Some Trees by E. C. Myers
  • Kill Your Darlings by Erin Bowman
  • “Darlings” as we’ve defined it is anything the writer loves that does not contribute in any meaningful way to the novel.
    • “Darlings” can be as macro as premise/storylines/characters or as micro as a pretty bit of prose you just like.
    • “Darlings” can be categorized into three categories: Big Picture, Scene, Sentence.
  • How to identify Big Picture darlings
    • When you are working too hard to make an element fit (e.g. JJ having to sit down and engineer situations for a third “darling” character to fit in with the rest of the story)
    • When you keep forgetting said element exists and have to keep going back to include it
  • How to identify Scene darlings
    • This usually shakes out in revision, but if a scene does not move the story forward plot-wise or character-wise, it should go.
    • Ideally, all scenes should do both, and if possible, find ways to combine scenes so that they do both.
  • How to identify Sentence darlings
    • Reading your work aloud illuminates things about your manuscript that you wouldn’t otherwise notice: the length of your sentences, their rhythm, any repetition, etc. The other thing it illuminates is whether or not that pretty sentence you wrote actually makes sense.

What We’re Reading/Books Discussed

What We’re Working On

  • Kelly is still working on her YA novel.
  • JJ is working on book 2 and a ton of promotional stuff for Wintersong.

Off Menu Recommendations

Submissions are still open for another query critique! If you have a query you would like us to critique, email us at with the subject line PUBCRAWL PODCAST QUERY CRITIQUE. As we did the last time, we will be critiquing 5 queries with all identifying information removed. All genres and categories welcome! If you’ve submitted to us before but your query didn’t get selected, feel free to revise and resubmit!

That’s all for this week! Next week we’ll be talking about the opposite to Kill Your Darlings—how to EXPAND. As always, if you have any questions or comments, feel free to sound off in the comments!


4 Responses to PubCrawl Podcast: Troubleshooting Craft – Kill Your Darlings

  1. Meghan Aug 4 2016 at 8:48 am #

    I had a question, as someone who can’t seem to find a balance for this: when should you take the time to research, how how do you know when you’ve done enough? How do you find reliable material? I am drawn primarily towards sci-fi and fantasy, and I will either bluff my way (unsuccessfully) through things I’m not directly familiar with, or I’ll try (in vain, usually) to research the topic, only to get sucked down rabbit holes.

    Bonus question: once you have the research, do you have tips on incorporating that information, without unnecessary descriptions, or infodumps?

    (Also, thank you so much for doing this podcast; it’s been such a huge encouragement and help in my writing)

    • JJ Aug 4 2016 at 6:11 pm #

      Oh boy, I know this feel. Kelly can tell you I go down the research rabbit hole AAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLLLLL. THE. TIME.

      We can definitely do a podcast episode on research! Let us put our thoughts together; it’s not something I’ve had to consciously think about before.

      • Meghan Aug 8 2016 at 2:41 pm #

        Oh my goodness, yes please! XD An episode on research would be amaaaaazziiinnngg

  2. lisa ciarfella Aug 5 2016 at 1:53 pm #

    As an MFA creative writing student, I know all about the Rabbit hole!
    A huge time suck!

    Yet, there’s really no other way to get your facts straight! I’d be happy to contribute to this particular podcast if you do it…. just let me know.

    Oh, and this “Kill your Darlings” is a good one!

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