The First of Three Days Three Quotes: Arthur Quiller-Couch

Tricia Sankey

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The term “kill your darlings” is often attributed to William Faulkner, Allen Ginsburg, or Stephen Kingas a source. However, this quote can actually be traced all the way back to Arthur Quiller-Couch, who penned it in his widely reprinted 1913-1914 Cambridge lectures “On the Art of Writing.”

If you here require a practical rule of me, I will present you with this: ‘Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it—whole-heartedly—and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings.

Personally, I can’t help but attribute this phrase to a writing instructor who drilled it lovingly into my skull while I attended the MFA program at Lindenwood University. So many hopeful writers make the newbie mistake of turning in what is called “purple prose” or flowery writing.

My instructor found great joy in trimming the fat from my writing, often leaving my words…

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