By Writing Excuses | February 24, 2008 - 11:16 pm - Posted in Career and Lifestyle, Season 1

How do you make your novel better? Sometimes you have to cut out the part you like best. Don’t believe me? Before I posted this I had attached an image of a chimp wearing a tux.

Brandon’s Deleted Scenes

Howard’s Original Time-Travel Outline


This entry was posted on Sunday, February 24th, 2008 at 11:16 pm and is filed under Career and Lifestyle, Season 1. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.


  1. February 25, 2008 @ 1:17 am

    Loving the podcasts, keep them coming

    Posted by jim
  2. February 25, 2008 @ 9:29 am

    […] Excuses Episode 3 is up! It’s called “Killing Your Darlings,” and I’m having a listen to it right now. If you’re an aspiring novelist, or […]

  3. February 25, 2008 @ 11:09 am

    Ahh, the spit-take episode. It’s a shame that didn’t come across more clearly through my microphone…

    Posted by Howard Tayler
  4. February 25, 2008 @ 11:20 am

    These are pretty good guys, thanks!

    Posted by Brett
  5. February 25, 2008 @ 11:38 am

    Ha, Howard, that’s the conversation where you drew me with a big axe. “It needed a little editing.”

    Posted by stacy
  6. February 25, 2008 @ 1:27 pm

    Indeed it is, Stacy. If you’ve got a link to that picture, I’d love to post it!

    Posted by Howard Tayler
  7. February 25, 2008 @ 4:43 pm

    Heh, I’ve got to stop listening to this in the computer lab at school… the whole spitting all over the table thing made me laugh really loud. I got a lot of dirty looks from engrossed students.

    Excellent episode once again!

    (Also, thanks again for last week’s podcast. The discussion about taking familiar ideas and blending them with something new helped me make a point in Shakespeare paper I was writing that I hadn’t been able to articulate previously.)

    Posted by Lauren B
  8. February 25, 2008 @ 4:47 pm

    Thank you, I think I have a Trill with a white cat that needs to die somewhere in cyberspace. I’ll let you know how the funeral goes.

    Posted by Ona
  9. February 25, 2008 @ 8:48 pm

    Believe it or not, the first two podcasts have helped me. Usually classes and books on writing focus on technical issues rather than style. Most of those seem more concerned with selling a book to an editor rather than to an audience.

    The first real class that helped me was a workshop by small-time author Regina Doman, held at my college a few years ago. She hardly spent any time on word tricks or even scene structure, and focused more on strong plot elements, well-rounded characters, and writing for one’s intended audience. She is terrific at romance (in both the modern sense of the love story as well as the older sense of an adventure story; her books are a blend of both), and can teach her skills to other writers with an ease I can only envy.

    You guys are the same sort of people. You are all widely-read, learned from experience, and can communicate your knowledge easily. The second podcast has stuck in my mind for the last week, and has really been making me rethink my own writing. I’ve been at a loss on several points for months, partly because I’ve been recovering from a long illness, but listening to these has gotten me working on story notes again. I can’t tell you how much that means to me.

    I have no doubt that listening to this third podcast will do the same thing. Now if only you guys could slap together something that will make me want to write my term papers as much!

    Posted by Matthew Bowman
  10. February 25, 2008 @ 11:56 pm

    You said that some people who try to teach writing are “more concerned with selling a book to an editor rather than to an audience.” I can tell you without equivocation that anyone who honestly thinks there’s a difference doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Good editors know what the audience wants, and the buy the books they know they can sell to readers. Lou Anders, the editor for Pyr, put it this way at Worldcon ’06: “The best way to get published is to write a good book. That’s what people want to read, and that’s what editors want to buy.”

    Posted by Dan Wells
  11. February 26, 2008 @ 6:54 am


    I understand the point you’re making about editors (and do not disagree), but I think Matthew was simply lamenting that formal educators are rarely writers. So, it is refreshing to hear how authors deal with character growth and plot development. Aspiring writers have the hardest time with these two elements because we are inexperienced – and no amount of technique training will provide that experience.

    It may be true that, “The best way to get published is to write a good book.” However, finding a concise and repeatable way of teaching how to write a good book is rarely achieved.

    Posted by Major Stubble
  12. February 26, 2008 @ 12:34 pm

    Yes, absolutely. My comment wasn’t meant as a slight on Matthew in any way, I was just trying to say that he needs to be careful who he gets his writing advice from. If someone is teaching a silly thing like “try to appeal to editors over readers,” they’re probably not the best source of info.

    Posted by Dan Wells
  13. February 26, 2008 @ 7:09 pm

    You know, I’m loving these episodes you guys are posting! I’ve dabbled in trying to write a book myself and so these are giving me some real insight in what to do.

    As an aside: Listening to this podcast really makes me look forward to the final book of the Wheel of Time series, I already love Schlock, and I need to pick up some books by Mr. Wells 😀

    Posted by Drew
  14. February 27, 2008 @ 2:09 am

    Hey Howard, I’ve just now seen the rest of the comments. What I’m doing up at this time reading comments… don’t ask. Yes indeed, I should be asleep.

    I blogged the picture back last year after LTUE. The post is here, and the direct link to the pic is here.

    Posted by stacy
  15. February 27, 2008 @ 2:12 am

    Also, a suggestion for Sprig, design-wise. Can this blog template use a widget that notes where the most recent comments were posted on the sidebar? I find that useful on sites like this that are built around discussions that may continue beyond the first day of the post, to know at a glance if there’s anything new. Just a thought–it really doesn’t matter, but I thought it might be an interesting element if you had a spot for it in the design.

    Posted by stacy
  16. February 27, 2008 @ 3:57 am

    The conversation, and especially the part about one’s first works heavily reminded me of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. He killed the series quite a few times, but always came back. And all this appeared even in the very same series.
    In th end the books turned out well, but going back to the beginning when you’re finished it quite horrible.
    Maybe he should have left if dead. :)

    Posted by Stephan
  17. February 27, 2008 @ 6:59 pm

    I just wanted to send a thank you for taking the time out for these podcasts. Informative, entertaining, and really motivating, knowing that there are others who encounter the same snares and pit-falls. Thank You.

    Posted by Ben
  18. February 29, 2008 @ 2:31 pm

    Absolutely Fantastic! This podcast is brilliant.

    Posted by Jason
  19. March 2, 2008 @ 5:26 pm

    I’ve just experienced again, a different twist on killing your darlings. I have some darlings, a character, a setting, a situation, and a futuristic TV show (of all things). They work as great triggers for me. Each of them has begun two or more stories. None of them survive to be in any of the stories yet. They always get dropped out. But, boy, do they keep giving ideas.

    Love the podcast. I’m so glad I saw the “why mormon’s make great SF writers” comment on Jay Lake’s blog link to Geek Dads. I’m hooked. Is the next one ready? :-)

    Posted by Guerry
  20. March 2, 2008 @ 8:27 pm

    Guerry: The next Writing Excuses podcast is ready, and should be updating here in the next few hours. I’m not sure exactly when Jordo posts ’em, though.

    Posted by Howard Tayler
  21. March 2, 2008 @ 10:54 pm

    I try to have new episodes up around 10pm MST the Sunday before but that’s just when I prefer to do this–I do make sure they’re up my midnight MST.

    Posted by admin
  22. March 5, 2008 @ 12:24 pm

    Yep we are in the middle of hacking a story right now…. Story ended up as 16K, cutting every other word sounds funny. but we are making progress.
    Kevin and Karen

    Posted by Kevin Evans
  23. March 18, 2008 @ 6:48 pm

    FWIW – there’s a summary up at

    Thanks, guys. Enjoyed the episode.

    Posted by Mike Barker
  24. May 14, 2009 @ 9:15 am

    […] to finishing my story. Of course, if you dig into their archives, you’ll find episode three, Killing Your Darlings. It has me absolutely convinced that I’ll finish this first story and then have to throw it […]

  25. August 8, 2009 @ 11:47 pm

    […] what do you trim? We’ve covered “Killing Your Darlings” way back in Season One Episode Three, so while those are certainly on the list of things to […]

  26. June 19, 2010 @ 12:53 pm

    […] guys on the Writing Excuses podcast use the phrase “kill your darlings” to mean that sometimes you have to get rid of something–a scene, a character, a […]

  27. January 10, 2011 @ 9:03 pm

    Howard: City of Reality has now down that time travel gimmick with the archives

    here’s the story that did it the original version is here

    Posted by Spudd86
  28. August 26, 2011 @ 11:44 pm

    […] I thought I wouldn’t have a problem with doing it (for those interested, you can listen to it here).  Evidently I do.  It’s harder than you think to kill off a character that you’ve […]

  29. September 1, 2011 @ 4:30 pm

    […] Excuses is a podcast that I wish I had found three years ago. Episode three really hit […]

  30. September 1, 2011 @ 5:31 pm

    Thanks to this episode I have killed my first novel. I am torn up about it. Thanks for the tough love. It is also terrifying. But I do agree that the process itself was important. My narrative may not have worked, but the experience is with me.

    Posted by C.L. Acevedo
  31. December 2, 2011 @ 11:30 am

    I am in the process of writing a novel and this episode is helping me to not just kill, but murder my characters

    Posted by Alxander Logan
  32. December 19, 2011 @ 7:34 am

    Incidentally, the link to Howards outline is wrong. It should be

    Posted by Ole Hougaard
  33. March 12, 2012 @ 5:03 am

    […] float your boat, however, hop into your TARDIS and travel back to February 2008 and listen to their podcast on Killing Your Darlings to make your writing […]

  34. May 10, 2012 @ 5:48 am

    […] probably the best term for what I’m doing with Heart of the Nebula right now.  Basically, I let some of my darlings live, and they grew some extra limbs and started drooling acid without my realizing it.  But now, […]

  35. May 17, 2012 @ 5:00 pm

    […] being unknown. Collapsing the quantum superposition of these possibilities inevitably occasions a massacre of darlings, to say nothing of the sheer vigilance required in making things make sense again. Share […]

  36. July 7, 2012 @ 1:02 pm

    […] So if you’d like to listen to the podcast that inspired this blog post, you can listen to it here. See you next time! Share this:TwitterFacebookPinterestLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. […]

  37. July 13, 2012 @ 8:16 pm

    […] off, this post was inspired by an episode of Writing Excuses. (You can find it here.) So if you haven’t listened to it, you probably should. (You have time. It’s only 15 […]

  38. January 27, 2013 @ 8:46 pm

    […] that, since one of the things I’ve been working on carefully is “killing my darlings” in my editing periods.  I know I probably have a long way to go, but I am working it.  […]

  39. April 5, 2013 @ 8:47 pm

    […] of ideas over the course of your life and will have thousands more.  Sometimes it is necessary to kill your darlings, and until you master the professional detachment needed, your “creative voice” will fight.  […]

    Posted by - In Brief
  40. May 23, 2013 @ 7:25 am

    […] Cartoonist; and Dan Wells, Horror Novelist are the hosts. I listened to episode three today, Killing Your Darlings. “How do you make your novel better? Sometimes you have to cut out the part you like best. […]

  41. March 4, 2014 @ 8:19 pm

    […] podcast with Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, and Howard […]