When in Doubt, Cut (28/9/09)

The great re-write-athon continues. King of the Crags has gone back to Gollancz now (ARCs expected around the end of October or early November). The Thief-Taker’s Apprentice has exited its penultimate rewrite, with another pre-submission spit-and-polish coming up in November. Next up, it’s another rewrite – the Gazetteer this time, then another one (that spit and polish), then probably another one (The Order of the Scales) and then probably yet another one, this time the edit to Thief-Taker. All in all, the great re-write-athon looks like it’s going to add up to something like seven months. With a bit of luck there might be a chance to work a bit on The Warlock’s Shadow and one or two bits and pieces. Or maybe I’ll spend my few spare hours watching True Blood and Dexter and other uplifting entertainments. Dammit, for a moment I had a flash of yearning for the good old days of NOT being published, when everything was new and shiny and rewriting  didn’t occupy HALF A F**KING YEAR!

In the meantime, however, it seems I am doomed to become a re-write expert. With two down and four to go, you’ll all doubtless be hugely please to know that I already have much unwanted wisdom burning to be shared. We’ll start with a simple mantra with which I shall beat myself repeatedly, probably wrapped around a handy piece of two-by-four: When In Doubt, Cut.

See, that uneasy feeling you get reading through your own manuscript at some point is the creeping realisation that your near-perfect work might, in fact, have an itsy-bitsy flaw in it. Now if you’re me, you’ll get this sensation  around about the time you get to a certain scene, say, of which you are particularly fond and proud. A scene that is, you believe, essential to the overall greatness of the story you’re trying to tell. A scene that will make your readers gasp with awe and bow at the mention of your name. A scene that is pivotal to atmosphere or to the understanding of some character, even if it’s a but superfluous as far as the plot goes and, in fact, had to be mangled into place with a crowbar and a mallet between two chapters that had previously been perfectly cosy neighbours.

You get where this is going, right. When In Doubt, Cut. No matter how awesome your scene is, if it doesn’t belong in your story then it doesn’t belong in your story. Cut it. Do it Now! Don’t think about it, just do it, and revel in the relief of knowing that that, even though it was hard, you did the Right Thing. Yes, I’m afraid some scenes need some Tough Love. You can always put them in some other story, right?

Or you can cut them out and post them on the internet (this is one of those Blue Peter here’s-one-I-made-earlier outtakes because what I cut out of Thief-Taker was pretty naff. But I promise, any more polished finished scenes that end up lying bleeding on the floor, I’ll put them up :-)

And if my recording of True Blood doesn’t start behaving itself RIGHT NOW then the next thing I’ll be re-writing is a letter to my insurance company explaining how exactly I accidentally dropped a laptop through the TV screen and right out the other side.

Anyway. Yes. When In Doubt, Cut.

2 Responses to “When in Doubt, Cut (28/9/09)”

  1. Eve says:

    I don’t know why, but somehow you sound a bit…stressed.

    But the last few sentences…well make sure you don’t throw you laptop throug your TV-screen, otherwise you’ll get shortly afterwards mad and then you’ll throw out of anger a lot of more things outside and then…we’ll then your room will be a lot more empty, but you shopping list way more larger and you money…well for the next few month it would be certainly gone…

  2. Stephen Deas says:

    Might have been, might have been. Better now.

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