Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Cutting Room Floor

As a member of Sisters in Crime I often take part in panels held in various libraries scattered throughout Southern California. I love supporting our libraries. They’re fun and each time I always come away having learned something new about a fellow author or find some great writing tips. Often, it’s just nice to spend an afternoon commiserating or celebrating about the trials and tribulations of being an author.

This past Saturday—topic, Spice Up Your Holiday Reading—my kindred panelists were Michael Mallory (a terrific moderator), Aileen G. Baron and Betty Hecthman. Aileen, who writes archeological mysteries, was sharing her frustrations about the challenge of finding the right place to put the historic Mission at San Juan Capistrano in her book since it had served as the initial spark for her plot.

Earlier posts on Type M last week talked of how life-changing personal experiences appear in novels in various disguises—after all, we write what we know. But what about those vivid scenes that became the seed of a story but perhaps, as the story develops, no longer fit?

Aileen’s dilemma reminded me of the completed manuscript submitted to my publisher for A Vicky Hill Exclusive! I had written eleven drafts—it was my first novel—and the climactic scene was something that tied the entire plot together. It was also the one scene that had given me the idea for the plot in the first place and was intensely personal. As a cub reporter for our weekly newspaper, I’d gone undercover and got myself into a rather tricky situation with the local coven of witches. Without going into the juicy details, I escaped unscathed.

Unfortunately, my editor felt the scene too risqué for the genre and insisted I take it out. The plot collapsed (of course) but, after the initial horror of having to rewrite the entire thing with a new storyline, I got to work and fixed it. It made a better book but jeez, it was tough.

What about you? Have any scenes dear to your heart ended up on the cutting room floor?


Rick Blechta said...

Oh boy, my cutting room floor is knee deep in good scenes!

I often write scenes that I have no intention of including in a novel, simply because these scenes help me discover important things about the characters.

Then there are those self-indulgent moments where I write something, fall in love with it, and keep it in the novel — often in the hope that no one will notice that the book really doesn't need it.

Hannah Dennison said...

Ah! Those self-indulgent scenes - yes, I'm guilty of that too.
I tend to move my cutting room floor scenes into a folder marked "good-crappy scenes with no home."