“Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.” Stephen King (On Writing)
The name of my Vermont College of Fine Arts class is Darling Assassins. I will confess: when we were deciding on a name during the summer residency of 2013, I spoke up against it. I thought, must we as writers stand for destruction instead of creation? I supported the name of Liars & Spies, inspired by guest Rebecca Stead at our first residency.
And then, the next two semesters happened to me. Since last summer, writing has been all about killing.
It may sound harsh. But it’s been amazing.
I have been working on one manuscript for many years now (asking me just how many would be more impolite than asking other people their age!). Draft after draft, I have been creating, until the thing grew so unwieldy, I wanted to burn it altogether. So many times I seriously considered hitting “delete” — a fresh start! But I couldn’t bring myself to do it. The story wouldn’t let go of me. Then I came to VCFA. With the (mostly) gentle prodding of my advisors, I have been pruning and hacking at my mess of a manuscript. Packet by packet, semester by semester, I have been letting characters go, eliminating subplots, (destroying an entire fantasy world!), zeroing in, chipping away at the block of marble, getting closer to the core.
And, incredibly, magically, all this killing has created room for the story to grow into what it’s been meant to be. One week ago I finished a new draft . Yesterday I sent it to my advisor. The last time I completed a draft of this story was somewhere around 2011. Today, the story is so very different, and yet, so much closer to its truth.
Now I know, writers aren’t liars. (Though we may sometimes be spies, let’s admit 🙂 ). We tell the truth.
From the very beginning, I have been proud to belong to my plucky, generous, fun-loving, talented class. Now, even as I anxiously await my advisor’s response to my new novel, I am proud to call myself a Darling Assassin, a name I feel I have earned.