"Kill your darlings" is a familiar phrase to writers. And trust me, none of us like to hear it. We write something we think is absolutely fabulous, can't wait for others to read and adore it like we do. Then we send it to our friendly readers or critiquers or editors and they say: "Kill it!"
Shriek! Kill it? Say what? Surely you jest? It's some of the best stuff I've ever written! Women will read it and faint in delight . . . grown men will sob with joy! HOW CAN you possibly suggest that I kill it???
Because it doesn't move the story forward, they say. Because it stops the flow. Because it doesn't add anything. Because you've climbed on your private soap box to preach to the reader. Because it doesn't even fit into the story.
So we crawl into the nearest closet and lick our wounds, unappreciated, unloved, misunderstood. Sigh. Then we think it over. These criqituers know our stuff. Even like our stuff. If they are saying something needs killing, it probably needs killing. So we crawl back to the computer or typewriter, poise a finger over the delete key, silently apologize to our darling, and hit DELETE. Sob.
The point of all this, assuming I have one, is that as writers, we are way too close to the "forest." We are IN the story as we write it. We know exactly where the characters are sitting or standing, what the setting looks like right down to the smallest detail, what the characters are wearing, thinking, saying. It's like standing at a party with a paper plate full of appetizers in hand, listening in on the surrounding conversations. So we whiz merrily along, fingers flying over the keyboard, describing what we're seeing, what our characters are doing, and sometimes we might take off on a tangent. That's why we need others to read for us. To keep us on track. To tell us what works. And more important, what doesn't.
The hardest thing for a writer to do is to ask for criticism. And it's what we need the most. Independent eyes, fair eyes, to catch not just typos but plot holes and errors. Things that bring the story to a screeching halt. So we search for good critiquers or editors, those who know and understand our style and can help us stay true to it without wandering off somewhere into left field. And someone who respects our talent enough not to try to get us to write it "their way." And we listen to them and do our best to learn from them.
Because once the book is published, the very last person we want to stop reading our work is the reader who has paid for the opportunity.
Having been on both sides, a writer receiving critiques and a critiquer saying: "Kill it!" I know how tough both jobs are. But a good critique can make the difference between a so-so manuscript and a break-out manuscript. Are you in a good critique group? Have a terrific editor that polishes all the rough edges off your manuscript? If you are struggling to get published, maybe it's time for a fresh pair of eyes on your manuscript?