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  • Writer's pictureErika Nichols-Frazer

Kill Your Darlings, Love Your Weirdlings

Most writers are familiar with the phrase, "Kill Your Darlings" (a poll of my husband found that 100% of non-writers are not). It means sometimes you have to cut something you love, a scene or character or metaphor you think is really clever. At first, it can feel hard to let go of something you put so much into, that you feel proud of. Writing takes real, often emotional, work. When it's good, you feel connected to every carefully-chosen word. And letting go can be hard.

I had a particular metaphor in a story I was working on and refused to cut it in several drafts, ignoring feedback from my professor, who had said more than once that it should go. It was extraneous. But I liked that part! It was, after all, what had led me into the story in the first place. Getting rid of it would change the whole thing! (It didn't.) In one letter, my professor wrote something like, "I can see you like this metaphor since you keep using it, but it's not needed." Finally, I gave in. One of the best things I learned in my MFA program at the Bennington Writing Seminars was how to take feedback and really use it. I learned to kill those darlings.

But, it's worth recognizing, I think, that there are also times you should fight for something you love. If it's important to you, it's how you want to tell this story - your story, after all - find a place where it can be what you really want. If it keeps getting rejected, sure, it might be worth workshopping again and seeing if you can refine it a little, but, if you love it as is, keep going until you find where it belongs (you may have to adjust your idea of where that is, maybe several times). A story I had published in Literary Orphans this week was rejected 13 times. I loved it. I wanted it in the world, so I kept trying until it was. Same goes for a story that had been rejected 8 times before winning Noir Nation's Golden Fedora fiction prize.

Beth Gilstrap (I Am Barbarella, No Man's Wild Laura), a writer I really like, once tweeted about some strange flash pieces she'd written that she called her "little weirdlings." I loved that. Whenever I write something that's pushing a boundary, that's undefinable, untraditional, or just a little weird, I think of it as my weirdling. "THIS IS NOT A DRILL," just published in Literary Orphans, and "No One Will Ever Hear You," the recent prize-winner, are two of my weirdlings. Both the subject matter and style of these pieces is different;

they're mine, my voice, my style. So, as much as they kept getting rejected, I kept putting my weirdlings out in the world. So I say, yes, kill your darlings when you have to, but love your weirdlings, too.

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