Drafted darlings. Lovable lines. Captivating chapters.
Every writer has them, and every writer often has to delete them.
Many save them.
Here’s why I don’t.
There are many different types of people in this world. Those that save things for sentimental value; those that hold onto things because they might be able to use it later; those that get rid of things because they want clear space; and those that pack-rat until there’s no room in the house. And I think writers, for the most part, fall into one of those categories, too.
See, when a writer writes a story, a lot of that story ends up on the cutting room floor. Like a movie, a novel has to go through lots of revisions and deleting to make it as tight and as entertaining as possible. And those extraneous scenes that seemed good when the concept was started? Well, if they don’t hold attention or move the plot from Point A to Point B, they’re gonna get ditched.
A book goes through many lives before it hits the shelves, online or brick-and-mortar. It starts with an idea that morphs into words and scenes and chapters on the page, until the draft is completed. Oh, but that’s not where the story ends. That’s where it begins. Because that’s when developmental editors and beta readers and all kinds of other editors step in to help make that story shine. To give it zing. And getting there often means deleting scenes that just don’t make the cut. They’re boring, they’re filled with back story, they lack conflict…the point is, they add zero value to story’s entertainment value. And that’s where a writer has to make the very difficult decision of deleting a scene.
A scene they may very well love.
So what happens to that deleted scene once it hits the skids? Some authors save those scenes for other stories, while others post them on their website as a teaser to readers. A kind of behind-the-scenes look at what didn’t make the final cut. As for me? I delete ’em. Yep. Get rid of them, free and clear.
You may be wondering why I do this, especially after I’ve sweated out my writing. I mean, if I was working so hard on my novel, why would I dump a piece of it that may have taken me a day or a week, or longer, to write?
A good question. Because, for me, once a scene is deleted it becomes clutter. If it’s not usable in a story, then something about it was off to begin with. It’s damaged goods. And if it’s damaged goods for one story, odds are it’s damaged goods for another. So, I won’t be able to use it in another novel, and even if I wanted to it probably wouldn’t fit the new story. To me, every chapter, every scene, every word of every story I write is particular to that novel. And once I officially type The End, it’s over. It’s time to move on to the next project.
So there you have it. But what about you? As a reader, do you enjoy reading deleted scenes? As a writer, do you like keeping them. If yes or no, why? I’d love to know.
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I keep outtakes in a separate space (I use Scrivener, so it’s easy to keep them in the same binder as the full draft) and mark what chapter & scene they were in. Sometimes I pulled them because they’re important to have written, just not needed *in* the story. Later, I move those to my notes area for characters, places, etc. Other times, the scene works better elsewhere, either in the current story or another book in a series, so I’ll keep them in the binder and decide later whether to keep or not.
I love how everyone has a process that works for them. It makes for interesting writing!
Loved the post! Much like Bobbi, I have “recycled” bits and pieces from time to time. I have found these to be particularly interesting as “Easter eggs”, though. For example, I had one scene written explicitly as a bonus for Pearseus readers (although in later editions I ended up incorporating it, as I realised that it did move the story forward). Little things like that, however, can help you build your platform, by leading readers to your website, where they can learn about your other books or activities.
Well, I can add something to this post, rather then merely comment on it. It might be a little side-line though, entitled – to cut or not to cut! I am currently beta-reading Terri’s third book in her reincarnation series and I came to a scene that came to mind when I read this post. I don’t think she will mind my talking about it generally. A scene within a scene in a café involves the protagonist and two customers. When the two customers interact with the protag I go, ‘what is Terri thinking? No, no and no!’ I’m sharpening my scissors ready for the big cut and then the scene with the protag and the two customers ends with a line from the waitress and Terri writes the protag’s reaction to the waitress’ comment and I go, ‘Wow! That was so deft, it has to stay!’ And the only way that line can stay is if the preceding potential cut remains. So some cuts are worth saving if merely to herald in a writing gem.
I know what scene you mean. I had fun with it too, knowing I was straying but seeing if it would stick anyway. The irony? I don’t remember how it ends with the waitress. Lol
Hi Terri–good point, and good post. I will say, though, that some of my deleted scenes have turned into short stories, or been used in short stories. It does get to be unwieldy at times, though, keeping up with all those bits and pieces.
Great points and I can see the appeal of keeping deleted scenes. I’m just not one of those people. Yet?