After the week I've had, I have my own understanding of "Kill your darlings."
|You're probably sick to death of this song, right?|
Let go of the hilarious but out-of-character line, the unbelievable character trait, and the Deus Ex Machina Band-aid over the plothole. Continuity, character development, and believability are more important. If it gets in the way, let it go.
Let go of worldbuilding and backstory if you can't make it fit naturally into your story. Let go of the idea of showing off everything you've made, no matter how cool or deep or interesting it is. If it doesn't fit, let it go.
Let go of the character, the idea, or the name that's been done by someone bigger and/or better than you. It's not worth the copycat accusations at best and lawsuits at worst. No matter how much you love it, no matter how long you've used it, let it go.
Yes, some of these are from experience. That last one definitely is. God, it was so hard to ax, but when it's your untried idea versus George R. R. Martin's published work, Martin wins. I had no idea he'd made a superhero world where the heroes are called "Aces." I'm counting my blessings I haven't published anything in my series yet. It would have been a disaster for my career simply because I didn't know. So I had to take a kryptonite ax to the name I've had for my heroes for four years. The Aces are dead, long live the Arches.
So commiserate with me, writer readers. What darlings have you had to let go in a particularly violent fashion?