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Status: Drafting the fourth book in the PERILOUS series!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Cost of Compromise

I recently had the experience of my editor advising me to cut some of my favorite scenes. A flurry of emotions followed her advice. These scenes, to me, represented the real heart of my novel. All the rest of it was fluff so I could get this story told.

And somehow, I had failed to make it come across as essential, or even important.

Failure, short and simple.

I felt completely lost. If I cut these scenes, then I no longer knew why I'd written this book. What exactly was I agreeing to? Sure, the book might be good, but would it be mine?

I felt like I'd sold my soul.

Luckily, I have a fantastic editor. I am so glad for that. I told her what I thought, and she and I--compromised. We came to an agreement. And I'm very satisfied with it, because it leaves much of the heart to be told in a later story. Which will lend more life to my sequel.

All you authors out there who read my blog--because I know there's a lot of you--have you faced similar situations? How did you deal? What was the end result? I'm so curious.

Oh, and a head's up--on August 18 I'll be interviewing Karen Jones Gowen, author of Uncut Diamonds, here on my blog. Many of you probably aren't familiar with this new author. The interview will give you a chance to meet her. And don't forget about the Christmas contest going on. Read all the entries and vote on the best one here (can't vote till August 16). I do have an entry.

12 comments:

Charity Brown said...

Glad to hear you didn't have to get rid of all your good stuff! Compromise is always good! :)

Stephanie Faris said...

This is the tough part of being published...a part I (unfortunately) don't have to deal with right now. Sure, all of my work is mine but nobody's reading it. There's value in just having those manuscripts but it sure would be nice to have it read! I guess the bad part of that is I'll have to bend to what an editor/agent wants in order to make that happen, more than likely.

Anonymous said...

I have a novel currently in the editing process.

I have written many scenes that are now on the cutting room floor. In fact I have written many stories that are sitting in a little file on my computer called "potential". I have this file for stuff that I have written, that I like, but I cannot use.

I keep these files because something about the story or the scenes speak to me, and I know one day I will use them.

I have inserted two of my useless short stories into my novel, and adjusted them to fit. Now I see that is where they belonged. Other scenes I have taken out, and I figure one day they will find a place in a different story where they really belong.

Karen Gowen said...

I think cutting out one's favorites is one of the hardest parts of writing and editing your own work. Then when editors or other people say, "Oh, I don't really like this, it doesn't work, better to cut it," it can be so painful and even make you doubt yourself and your gut feelings as a writer.

That's when I take a good, long break from my ms. hopefully to come back to it later with a fresh eye.

And also, it's good to remember that an editor has got to think of salability all along the editing process. What will readers like or not like? Who is the demographic and will this meet their expectations and preferences? An editor has to meet the expectations of the readers, more than to please the writer. An editor and writer must work together to do this.

I am so glad your editor and you were able to come to an agreeable compromise. Your book is going to be that much better for it.

Vicky said...

Wow. I'm sorry you had to face that. Even though I am not a published author, as you know, I have been through this. There have been many times when I made the horribly difficult decision to cut a scene I greatly loved because it interrupted the flow of the novel or had to change it enough that it was almost a completely different scene so that it would work with the plot. I'm so glad your editor was kind enough to compromise with you. I wish you the best of luck through the rest of the process.

David J. West said...

I try hard to only put scenes I think are relevant to the story. A pet-peeve of mine is books I like going on and on about stuff that doesn't matter to the plot at all.(Robert Jordan)
But of course I still had a lot of stuff to get cut or at least re-written. As much as I stressed about what was getting cut-it only made me that much more thrilled when it came time for re-writes and especially new scenes that my editor asked for, so it all ends well.

Tamara Hart Heiner said...

great responses, guys!

Stephanie--Like you, I knew if I got a contract, scenes would get cut. I prepared myself for it. I want a certain story to get told, and I worried that maybe it wouldn't happen.

Anon--I have what I call my 'deleted scenes.' Let me tell you, LOL...this file is getting huge! Maybe someday I'll release an 'director's cut' edition.

Karen--and of course demographics is part of the problem. I knew, when I agreed to change the book from YA to adult, there would be big changes. So I know where my editor was coming from. But as the author, I also knew which story lines were absolutely *vital* to the sequel/spin offs, which my editor is not privy to. Luckily, my editor agreed with me, to a certain extent!

Vicky--I remember doing that too. Cutting those scenes I enjoyed that didn't quite flow right. But at least it was me making the cuts!

David--I hate plot filler. I just don't see the point to it. But as my plot has taken a different angle, scenes that used to be pivotal--aren't anymore. Difficult. made me feel like I didn't quite know the novel I was writing. We're not even on a first name basis yet. LOL.

M. Gray said...

For me it comes down to two issues when deciding which scenes to cut. 1)the demographic and 2)answering throughlines.

I thought Karen's and Tamara's experiences speak to the first issue, demographic. Our story won't get anywhere unless it speaks to our targeted demographic.

As for "throughlines," this is something I learned from Alicia Rasley of Story Structure Architect. It's basically the gist of the story in one sentence. And a story should only have one throughline at a time, often a problem that needs to be solved. I'M embracing the throughline concept because it curtails all the fluff and actually brings in more relevant scenes! Check out the book for a more understandable explanation. It's been my education lately.

Tamara Hart Heiner said...

Interesting, Mary! I'll have to educate myself on that.

Julia said...

Your lucky to have an editor. I just get rejected.

PV Lundqvist said...

Sometimes it takes someone outside our head to see the novel clearly. Sounds like this editor 'gets you' and you both are happy with the result.

Tamara Hart Heiner said...

Julia, don't give up! You will get there! (I've been rejected a couple of times too.)

PV, you are absolutely right. While I loved the scenes that I cut and am trying to figure out how to fit them into the sequel, I'm very satisfied with the pace my novel is going at now. I trust my editor, thank heavens.

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