One of the most popular writing rules I’ve heard (and practiced) is “kill your darlings.” When a very trusted editor commented that a favorite line of mine had pulled him out of the story, I first started to justify how it fit in the book. Then I realized that I was trying to save the line because I loved it. It was pretty, but it didn’t work.
But here’s perspective from author N.M. Kelby on breaking this rule:
First of all, who came up with the idea of killing your “darlings”? It appears to have been William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald or Mark Twain. No one seems to know for sure, but I say, Who cares? They’re all dead. The pressure probably killed them.
This approach to editing is the most dangerous tool in your repertoire. We write for the beauty of the well-turned phrase and the surprise of unexpected wisdom. So why “kill” these darlings? True, every word counts, but fiction is a journey. Your reader has her bags packed and is ready to go. Give her an adventure.
How do you strike a balance between economy and beauty? Practice. Read your manuscript aloud and imagine being at a cocktail party. You’re telling a story to someone you’ve just met. Think about what would interest or delight her—not you.
Rather than killing your darlings, hide them in well-marked files. You may use them later. And don’t let the pressure get to you. We should approach the page as a dog approaches an open car window. We have to stick our heads out, let our ears flap and watch for bugs in our eyes. We have to be in and of the moment. We have to let our hearts fly.
From Writing Rules: 10 Experts Take on the Writer’s Rulebook