Deleted scenes


You find this title on some DVDs extras, right? Well, I suggest you apply this to novels as well. Cheryl mentioned on her post she’ll have to delete part of her manuscript. My comment: “don’t hit “delete”. cut and paste somewhere else (a new document, a document of “deleted scenes”, whatever), you never know when you might need those words again… maybe in another story!”

I have been writing (albeit unpublished) for over 30 years. I lost a novel to a floppy disk – my best friend had a typewritten version (yes, that was the 80s! ;-)), but two chapters were completely gone. I lost scenes in rewrites that some times still haunt me – how could have I “recycled” them?

OK, sometimes I deleted something because it was bad, or unoriginal. The first draft of Air (in Italian) had Kumar climbing the tower of the sculpted palace to save the princess after introducing himself as a pilgrim, instead of the adventurer assassin he is (yes, I have a very cynical anti-hero in this novel). A second draft had a duel between him and the bad king’s man to free the princess, but it was so blatantly copied from the duels in Mira Nair’s Khamasutra – a tale of love, that I deleted that version of the scene without remorse. The first English draft was very similar to the final one, with Kumar confronting the High Priest King and his past, then taking away the princess, apparently without effort, but the point wasn’t saving the princess, it was the consequences of that action. But you never know when I might need the very first version (climbing on a tower to rescue a princess… how fairy-tale-ish is that?), so I’ll keep it for now.

I know I’ve lost a scene of a sci-fi novel where the newcomers didn’t have sunglasses and blindfolded themselves to cross a desert – which might work even better in a fantasy world where sunglasses haven’t been invented yet, but I guess I’ll have to re-imagine that scene… Well, you get the point.

The point being also that I think there are two kinds of writers: the literary writer who likes to play with words and sentences etc, and the storyteller who wants to tell a good story. In case you didn’t notice, I belong to the latter. I pour out the first draft at high speed, and then revise, rewrite, adjust, beef-up, whatever. You can’t spend your life on just one novel, or at least I can’t I have too many stories to tell! ;-)

So, to Stephen who his procrastinating his epic novel I suggest: just pour it out. It well be bloody awful, but who cares. You don’t have to show it to anyone. And at least you’ll have a base to build on the great epic you want to write. You can’t work on it forever and never get down to the actual writing. I used to just write (with the years I’ve learned to mull about it a few months before starting the actual writing, but again, a few MONTHS, not years), and trust me, all these novels badly need total rewrites. But the seed is there and I can make it grow whenever I have to time to go back to them.

I’ll end with Daniyal Mueenuddin WoW (from The Writer magazine):

(writing) feels like you have this magic drop that you put in the ground, and this plant starts growing. Then you realize it’s growing in the wrong direction. You have to hack off those branches and make it smaller, and it grows again. Then you start rediscovering things and reinserting things. It grows organically.

AND

When I’m writing, I may be dancing along… thinking how great I am. Usually later in the day, I start realizing how bad I am. i’ll think “My God, this is never g0ing to work”. I’ll get tremendously discouraged. You just have to fight through. I’ts good or bad, it doesn’t matter… just get it done.

Happy writing!

P.S. Go vote for Lisa K, let her little novel win!! (Or vote for her competitor, if you prefer so, just support these new writers, and they might end up supporting you!)

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13 Comments

  1. In the light of new closing chapters and much deletion . . . great post, Barb!

    • I’ve added an epilogue to Air that sort of darkens the end of the novel… maybe when I’ll submit it to publishers or agents, they’ll ask me to take it out! ;-) But I WILL keep it on file anyway… the story continues… and any reader interested who enquires with me will be able to read it! ;-)
      Or I’ll self-publish and leave it in, haha! :-D

  2. missvspeaks

     /  22/06/2010

    I have about 50 versions of my book right now. I’ll probably delete some of the older ones eventually, or glean off the scenes I want. Every time I’ve made a change in the plot or what have you, I start a new version so if I want to go back to steal that scene I thought wasn’t going to work, I can. Trouble will be FINDING it. Ack.

    I also know I’m going to have a tough editing job ahead of me because for my own sanity, I know I’m writing more than I need to. I KNOW I’ll end up deleting a lot of the little in-between stuff (brushing teeth, eating, driving to and fro). But I have to write it anyway so in my mind everything is connected. Once I’m done, I’ll bring in my editing knife and chop the scenes into concise, readable chunks…just don’t make me do it yet!

    • 50 versions is too much, you fell into the “rewriting well”, get out of there NOW!!! And start a new book, please… might be the same topic, or completely different, it’s just the best way to cut your ties with the previous baby and go back to it with fresh eyes! :-D

  3. Viv

     /  22/06/2010

    It’s the journey that’s never started that takes longest to finish.
    Until you actually begin a project, it’s always going to be another world.
    That’s why people freeze at a blank screen/piece of paper.You can’t know where it’s gonna take you.
    thanks for this Barb. good thinking here!

  4. Ha ha!

    Oh actually, though, yes – I did write it and it was bloody awful. Actually, I didn’t finish it, but I did get about 2/3 of the way through. (A clever google search will actually turn up the first 8-ish chapters of the bloody awful version that I wrote.) My more recent goal for that story has been to rethink everything in that story, from the ground up, before rewriting it. In the mean time… I’ll keep on writing other stories!

    To the topic of your post, though, I can totally relate. I had that self-same book to which you make reference later in your post stored on a “portable” hard drive. One day, as I was in the midst of “transporting” said drive, my innate clumsy nature kicked in, and I dropped it.

    Luckily I was able to salvage most of the files on the drive – but some of the chapters in the book, especially the most recently written one, were lost irretrievably. That was before I had decided to rewrite the whole thing from scratch. It was a pretty harrowing experience… I still feel the loss, years later, even with the knowledge that I was just going to rewrite it eventually anyway.

    • gah! When technology fails us, we’re all lost, aren’t we? My older stuff is still handwritten… hopefully no fire will reach my apartment before I rewrite/type it somewhere! :-)

  5. Also, I’d point out that, I believe it was Brandon Sanderson who I first saw do this, but he started posting “deleted scenes” on his website for books that he’s published – sort of like DVD extras for the book. So there’s that option a writer can offer to hardcore fans as well, if you keep them on hand.

    I think it depends on how “crap” those deleted scenes are and how embarrassed you might be to have them seen.

    • sometimes they’re just out of place in that particular story… sometimes, yes, it’s better to forget them! ;-) Unless… you want to pretend to write as a novice writer – that’s how I “recycled” one of my very first…

  6. I like the deleted scene idea. I hate throwing writing away (unless it really is god-aweful, then I’m practically hurling it in the fireplace) but if it just doens’t fit, doens’t mean there is not a place for it in the future. Save it for a rainy day :)

  7. I’m bad with deleted scenes. I save very little of them. Mostly because I think they are really bad. But you are very right. I should just keep them. But I guess I get really annoyed by extra stuff just lying around, I notoriously try to get rid of anything in my computer files that are bad, when the trash piles up I get antsy and it drives me crazy. So I delete.

    One day I’m going to throw my masterpiece away, and think nothing of it. Help me! ;)

    • considering how few space written files use… try to keep them! Imagine me, with dozens of notebooks of bad writing in my bookshelves… and some printed versions as well! ;-)
      What at first sight looks great and five years later looks awful, ten years later you can see what was good of it and salvage it, trust me. That’s why I never throw away anything until I’ve reworked it with my “new wisdom”….
      Besides, some writing is meant for the time it’s been written. I’ll always keep my semi-autobiographical high-school story, because it’s something I wanted to happen but didn’t – it’s not a masterpiece, but it shows a piece of me, so I keep it – with all the comments I made like 6 months later! ;-)

    • I have to agree with Barb. Disk space is relatively cheap. If the problem is that it looks cluttered to you, try keeping all your deleted scenes in a hidden subfolder so you don’t have to see all that clutter staring at you in the face.

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