A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.

Liz de Jager: Reader, then I killed him dead

Kill your darlings is one of the biggest maxims in the literary ‘verse. And for a reason. Writing is rewriting and saying goodbye to those pieces of brilliance you presume are brilliant.

Writing the first draft of your book you’re fiery and passionate and wild. It’s perfect! Amazing! Oh my god, the best thing in the world ever for infinity plus a further 200m years. No one can do better. Hemingway can take a hike! Tolkien? What a total loser. Stan Lee? Complete peasant who wouldn’t know a true superhero if it bit him on the butt.


This craziness lasts for all of three minutes if that. The first draft is this wild unwieldy creature that needs to be tamed. And you need courage for that. When I subbed the edited manuscript of what is to become Banished to my agent before she signed me, we met up to talk through various plot-points. I was lucky enough to have belonged to a tough critique group who kicked my writing into shape so even though I felt some trepidation meeting with a professional about my book, I thought I was prepared for anything she was going to suggest.

I was partly right. I’d already rewritten the book from scratch changing point of view from third person past tense to first person present tense. Everything else would be a cake-walk… I thought.

Then Juliet and I both paused as she neared the end of her list of editorial questions and amendments and I said to her: I think I have a superfluous character in here…I love him to bits but…

And Juliet went: You mean, Kal? Yes, I love him, and he needs his own book, but he can’t be in this book because this isn’t his story.

And something inside me went snickt. It was a puzzle piece that settled home. So Juliet signed me after the meeting because we got one another. I went away and re-edited the book and took one of the major characters out completely and it worked so much better. I gave a lot of his scenes to another character which meant the character became more chewy and fun. Other scenes I rewrote entirely and it also gave me the freedom to mess around with the story a bit more.


When I got the publishing deal with Tor, I was so worried about the editorial process. No one ever really talks about it. I was scared stiff and expected to sob and cry and wail and instead…it was remarkably okay. Once you distance yourself from your work and you read the feedback and you consider it, you realise that yes, these things would be better. In some instances, you are allowed to say no – remember this is actually a dialogue and it is your book after all, but editors are there to push you and your book and to make it betterer still.

I’m currently editing book 3, Judged, in the Blackhart trilogy and it’s due back to Bella, my editor, on the 27th April. This is my second set of edits and I’m whipping through it at a steady pace. The first set of edits were insanely difficult and mostly I rewrote the whole book because I’d tried to cram a bazillionty things into it and remarkably, it wasn’t necessary and it was also very stupid of me. So now, working on the far improved version, in which things are tighter and far more explosive, I feel far more confident and hopefully the readers will enjoy it too!

Being edited is like getting on a rollercoaster. You just have to let go. And trust. And then get off that rollercoaster, find your feet, wait for your brain to catch up and just sit down and get down to it. Some people find it really hard to be edited, to make changes and I agree, sometimes there’s something you just love utterly and if they want changes made, you sort of get stubborn about it.

But, at the end of the day, if you think about that scene or sentence or paragraph and consider it within the scheme of the book, will it matter if it’s gone? Is it pertinent? If not, cut away.

Most writers I know have a folder in which they cut and paste the stuff they’ve cut. Some use it to generate the cut-scenes / special scenes they then host on their websites as extra content.

Here’s the biggest thing to remember apart from kill your darlings and writing is rewriting: nothing you write is ever a waste. Everything you write will make you a better writer. The same way an athlete trains for an event, for weeks and months, sometimes years, writers are exactly the same: the more you write, the better you will get. Every writer ever says this and you know, it’s gotta be true.

We won’t lie to you…even if we lie for a living.


Liz in cafeLiz de Jager

Liz grew up in South Africa and is the youngest of six kids. In the year 2000 (AD) she moved to the UK with her husband and they now live in Kent with their Jack Russell, Sparrow. Liz ran My Favourite Books book blog for several years and wrote articles and reviews for other online sites about comics, movies and best writerly coffee shops in London. Continue reading…


About Liz

Liz de Jager drinks too much tea, has too many notebooks and books crammed on her bookshelves. She is owned by a Jack Russell called Sparrow. Her website is:

One comment on “Liz de Jager: Reader, then I killed him dead

  1. Princess Kick-ass
    April 17, 2015

    Kill your darlings. And join the Blogging Coachella ^_^

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This entry was posted on April 17, 2015 by and tagged , , , , .

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