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A THRILLER WRITER'S THOUGHTS ON WRITING, LIFE & WRITING LIFE.

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I Got 99 Problems But I Only Deleted One


I have a problem: I have this scene in my novel that I need to cut. It doesn't move the plot forward, doesn't provide critical information or backstory, and doesn't help develop my characters or establish their motives. Therefore, per every editor, author, blogger, columnist, writers group, and expert that ever was, I must backspace over these 689 words. It will make the story better. More interesting, more exciting, more focused. So what's the problem, you might ask?


If you're a writer, you already know the answer: Because it's A Great F-ing Scene.


We all have scenes that hurt to part with, yet we know we must. And not just scenes. I've had my heartbroken over ixnayed one-liners and redlined dialogue and even An Entire F-ing Novel.


There are many reasons why this process is so painful for a writer.


First of all, we get attached to these little nuggets. They're our babies. We birthed them. Who cares if this scene doesn't do anything useful? It's so cute and it sounds just like me and it's clever and I worked so hard on it. Please don't make me get rid of it.


Also, don't know if you know this, but writers really like words. We can be straight up hoarders when it comes to our words. Oh, but I might want to use this metaphor one day... I know this dialogue is a little rough, but it might come in handy later... We can't just throw a perfectly good scene away! It's kind of like that one garment (or twenty) that you keep in your closet because it was expensive or because it's nicely tailored or because it's your color. You know you will never wear it because it's uncomfortable or requires a strapless bra or whatever, but you just keep convincing yourself it has to stay because it's so darn cute. Or expensive or whatever.


And don't even get me started how just plain wrong cutting a beautiful passage is, no matter how little it drives the plot. It's not what decent, civilized people do. I mean, we don't throw our new puppy in the garbage just because we realize he actually serves no purpose other than to amuse us, do we? He doesn't help out with the kids or the bills or the yard work, yet we still keep him around and no one's saying anything about it. Well, my husband is actually. Every day he says we should get rid of him. But he wouldn't really do it. Because people don't do stuff like that. Which is exactly why it's so hard for me to understand why this scene has to go.


Along those same lines of morality, let's talk about how wasteful deleting words is. There are writer's blocked children in China and we're just going to throw six-hundred-and-eighty nine words in the trash? Disgusting. I can't do it.


Look, I'm not trying to say I'm against editing and cutting out the junk. A seasoned writer becomes quite skilled at cleaning house. I've taken a lot of satisfaction in cutting 500 words out of a chapter or condensing a convoluted paragraph down to a single great sentence. But every once in a while, a great scene or line or beautifully crafted piece of prose comes along that captures my heart. Even though it hurts, I know what I have to do. So until the publishing houses start taking a page from the film industry and including a Deleted Scenes section at the end of our books, I continue do what a writer's got to do: I pull on my big girl gloves and press that backspace key and I show that gorgeous but useless passage who's boss. But sometimes, every once in a while, like the sneaky little word hoarder I am, I leave it in. Because it's A Great F-ing Scene.