Romantic Novelists' Association

Hints & Tips For New Writers #18

10 July 2019

This month’s hints and tips is about the part of the editing process I hate most: deleting words! Personally I think writers can be divided into two categories – and it’s not early birds versus night owls or people who thrive on deadlines versus those who panic – it’s writers who over-write and those who under-write. I’m definitely one of the latter. I can have a whole book wrapped up and finished with 20,000 words to spare so, honestly, I might not be the best person to give this advice, but here goes anyway…

How to delete words…

One of the most famous pieces of writing advice is: ‘kill your darlings‘. It often gets attributed to Stephen King (and he does elaborate on it in On Writing), but the phrase ‘murder your darlings’  originated with the Cornish novelist Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch (he who published under the awesome pseudonym of Q). It sounds brutal and it is, whether you’re an over-writer faced with cutting tens of thousands of words or an under-writer who can’t bear to lose any precious paragraph. When you’ve put hours of work into a story, losing any part of it is hard, but before hitting send on your MS it’s important to step back, try to look at your work objectively and delete anything you don’t need. No matter how much you loved those words or how proud you are of them, if they don’t need to be there, you have to cut. And then maybe cry.

So what should be deleted? Unfortunately as writers we get so close to our work that we lose the ability to judge it properly and spot errors. I’ve found mistakes in all of my books which I should have noticed (and had about a thousand chances to fix), so here are a few things to remember.

So good luck deleting (and hopefully I haven’t depressed you)! We’re taking a break next month so Hints & Tips is back in September. In the meantime, have a wonderful summer.

Jenni x


 Jenni Fletcher writes historical romances for Mills & Boon and her seventh book is out later this month. The best way to contact her is via Twitter @JenniAuthor.