How to Turn Your Darlings into Responsible Adults

Stephen King once wrote, “Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.” This is advice often given  to writers. It means you should get rid of your most cherished and self-indulgent passages for the good of your prose. But maybe that’s a bit extreme. Maybe you don’t have to kill your darlings; maybe they just need to be turned into responsible adults.

After all, there’s a reason this bit of writing is important to you in the first place. You’re the writer, and your book is your way of communicating your ideas and knowledge to your audience. Instead of doing away with what you feel are your best ideas altogether, try reworking them. You can send a life raft to your darlings by doing to the following: 

  • Focus on word choice
  • Consider rehoming your darlings

Make sure your reader gets it

Using big words doesn’t necessarily make you sound more intelligent, and if your readers have to continually consult their dictionary to get through your text, that’s a problem. The last thing you want is for your readers to consider your book a struggle. What’s more, this kind of writing often comes off a bit condescending. Even if they understand you, readers could be turned off and possibly stop reading.

Make sure your darlings are succinct and clear. Focus on your language and consider who it is you're writing for. Keeping your reader in mind will ensure that your ideas come across clearly. Refine your prose to make sure they are digestible to the reader. Getting your message to the world is what you’re trying to do, after all.

Maybe your darlings were meant for something else

Sometimes you’ll have great ideas that deserve to live—but they just need a new home. An author will often try to put all of their expertise into one book, except their book may only be about one particular topic that they are an expert on. This is a great problem to have! It means you may already have the subject of your second book.

Other places you can rehome your darlings can be articles, white papers, or blog posts that are a part of your author platform. In fact, continually updating your content with new ideas can create dedicated readers, expanding the market for your book and your books to come. 

Are you ready to send your darlings out into the world? Or maybe you need a bit of help doing so. Contact us at, or visit our submissions page. If you have any questions for Greenleaf Editorial about the editing process or your project, tweet us @GreenleafBookGr.