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Have you killed your darlings?

One of my favourite writing tips that is always in the back of my mind when I am writing is, kill your darlings.

What does it mean? Well, it’s about being ruthless with editing. It means, in every piece of writing there are those sentences that don’t add anything, but which the author is emotionally attached to. They might be overly flowery (that’s my problem), or clever and witty, or just down right beautifully structured. But they serve no purpose of informing the reader.

The problem with darlings is, they take up word count. They can leave your work wordy and cluttered, poorly structured, and clunky. And all of those things makes a piece of writing hard to read, not an objective of any writer.

At Media Stable we are in the business of writing short, pithy pitches for media that will grab their attention and make them want to contact you, the expert, to find out more. And when you’re trying to be short and pithy, there’s definitely no darlings allowed.

You might be thinking that by deleting all your darlings you’ll kill the character of your writing. Not true. You just have to get smarter about where to incorporate your personality. This can be in the way you describe things, in the overall topic, in the words you use or in metaphors. Just because a sentence has to be informative, doesn’t mean it can’t be representative of you.

So, how can you spot the darlings?

  • Look for the sentences or words in your writing that do not add information.
  • Look for the ones you really, really, really don’t want to delete because you like them too much, that’s a sure sign.
  • Get us to take a look – the Media Stable team loves to kill darlings!

And once you’ve spotted them, what should you do with them – do you really have to delete those carefully crafted words? If you’re really attached, paste your darlings into a separate document and review them when you’ve finished writing your piece. Then figure out what it is you love about that sentence, and if it’s a particular word or phraseology, figure out a way you can incorporate it into the piece without making it a stand alone concept or sentence.

Or maybe you’d like to keep a document with bullet points of all your darlings, where you can read them at your leisure, and perhaps use them as inspiration for future writing.

Media is time poor. If you’re writing long, wordy, clunky pitches to media, they just won’t have the patience or the attention span that befits to your writing. If you kill your darlings, you’ll be more likely to grab their attention straight up – and who knows what that could lead to.

By Emily Morgan, Media Stable – Media Engagement Manager

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