Thursday, September 8, 2011

Making the Cut

Hey, another blog reviewed my book today. You can go read what Rebecca Talley thought of Ribbon of Darkness here Thanks, Rebecca!

As most of you know, I’ve been attempting to go through my basement and organize it for a while now. It’s a process, that’s for sure. Last Saturday, my husband and I unearthed the “treasures” that had been stored underneath the stairs. We hadn’t looked at any of that stuff for about ten years and it was sort of like opening a time capsule. A time capsule of mostly junk.

But as we sat and went through everything, deciding what to keep, what to give away, and what to throw away, I realized I keep a lot of junk thinking that I might need it. (Maybe our future grandkids would use these toys. Or my second cousin twice removed gave that to us for our wedding twenty-three years ago, we couldn’t get rid of it.) (Cousin, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry and you should probably stop reading this now.) Never mind that we hadn’t used it in ten years. We had to keep it.

I know, it’s a strange way to think for a person like me who enjoys organization, but I realize that I’m like that with my writing, too. Cutting scenes and words that I love is hard. I want to keep it all! If I have to cut scenes and words, I put them all in a “cut file” that I save, in case I need it later or want to add it back in. (I have cut files for every one of my seven published novels, and I’ve never needed them or even looked at them again. Sadly, it’s like the boxes under my stairs.)

The thing that I realized, sitting in my basement with boxes of mostly junk, was that I didn’t need it. All that stuff was taking up valuable real estate in my home that was preventing me from having the organized basement that I want. It wasn't the treasure it purported to be.

And that’s how it is with the words that I have to cut. Those extra scenes that I loved, or jokes that I thought were funny but weren’t, or writing that moved me---in the wrong direction, were things in my manuscript taking away from having a tight suspenseful story that readers will rave about. It's not the treasured word that I think I need. ( I blogged here not too long ago with a list of specific words and phrases you can cut.) (And no, this isn't really a repeat blog. It's more, hey look at my writing personality quirk. And I'm thinking a lot about clutter and writing lately. So there.)

We ended up taking a huge load of "treasures" to our local secondhand store that accepts donations, and we threw away a lot of stuff, too. And you know what? At first I was anxious about it, but by the end, it felt good. We freed up the space we needed and we’re one step closer to having the basement of our dreams! (Well, at least an organized one.) Just like with my novel, when I can cut away the extras, I know it’s going to be painful to think about, but the end result will be a tightly written novel that I can be proud to call mine.

Do you have a cut file? How do you deal with the process of cutting the extra “stuff” from your manuscript? Do you just delete it and move on? What's your process?


Janice Sperry said...

Most cuts I make are deleted. But when I cut the entire first chapter and turned chapter 2 into chapter 1, I kept the first chapter in case I left any important details out of the new first chapter.

Julie Coulter Bellon said...

You're a brave woman to just delete, Janice. How far along is your manuscript? Are you getting close? :)

Sarah Tokeley said...

I've only tried to edit two stories before, and I saved absolutely everything! And yes, this is what I do in real life too. I taunt my children that, in many years time, when I'm gone they are going to have to go through 11 years of school notes because I'm going to leave the odd random important thing in the middle if it all :-)

Crystal said...

I totally have a "cuts" folder. Ya know, just in case! I also used to be a hoarder... These things may be related. ;-)

Melanie Goldmund said...

I don't have a cut file. If I delete something, it's gone. I'm not really a hoarder, either, or if I do keep something, it's because I'm too lazy to get up and throw it away, not because I think it's still going to be important in the future. When I do get off my duff and toss things out, I am ruthless. Didn't use it for five years? Out it goes! Didn't use it for three years? Bye-bye. Two years? Well ...

Last year, I started writing a story that I hoped I could submit to Monsters and Mormons over at A Motley Vision. It soon became obvious that the story was too long and above all, too boring, not to mention the fact that the main character was too much like myself and therefore way too wimpy. I kept it for a while. Recently, however, I was inspired to re-work the story from a different POV and with a slightly different heroine. I deleted the entire first draft and started anew, and haven't missed it since.