Thursday, October 30, 2008

Kill Your Critic

I shouldn't complain, but I will. I read a lot of books on the craft of writing and burn through a couple a week sometimes, mostly because I don't always read the entire book. Most writing books, poetically, are terrible. Not in a grammatical or structural way, but boring, uninspiring, pedantic.

The worst books have a piece of recurring advice that grates on me. The gist of the advice is: if you write a passage or scene that you think is particularly fine, that you are super proud of, that you think is amazing—delete it.

The proponents of delete-your-good-writing rely heavily on the quote, alternately attributed to William Faulkner and Mark Twain, "Kill your darlings."

The premise of this argument seems to be: you are so self unaware/narcissistic/tone deaf that if you think it is good, it must be bad, so cut it out. If a carpenter is super proud of a staircase she built, should she rip it out? Why would anyone who is such a poor judge of writing be a writer in the first place?

There are times I write something I think makes me look really smart and I don't want to delete because I want to impress, but deep in my heart I know it's a pathetic crock of crap. Yes, that should be cut and I would wholeheartedly back the advice: "Kill your pretentious crap." Honestly assessing your writing is different than not trusting your instincts.

Today's rant is over.

No comments:

Post a Comment