Editing is tough. Editing means looking at your work in heartless ways. Does this character work? Does that action make sense? Does this part of the plot fit the overall story?
What’s tough for me is that each word is written with heart and soul. I agonize over the selection. I picture the scene in my head, walk the walk with my characters, talk the talk. Their pain is my pain. So when I have to cut words because they don’t work with the book, it’s a little like cutting out part of my soul.
But nothing is ever really deleted. I have a folder where I keep these odds and ends bits of text or scenes. I thought I’d share a few paragraphs and talk about why I deleted them. And in some instances, where I resurrected these carefully selected words.
When I was writing Sex and Insensibility my intent was to keep it light and humorous. Before that I’d written primarily romantic suspense and the more dead bodies the better. I tried to do both in this scene. To recap, my heroine Lara Haley discovers her soon-to-be-ex (Brian) after he died during the night. She also learns that he’d been having an affair with five women on the side.
“Brian’s disappeared.” Sheriff Brody announced, reluctance lifting the end of his statement to make it more of a question.
Lara’s jaw dropped, and the cool antiseptic taste of the hospital coated her throat. She licked her lips, tried to swallow the anger. “What do you mean Brian’s disappeared? It’s not like he has other plans for the weekend.”
Brody had the sense to look sheepish. “The coroner went to start the autopsy this morning and couldn’t find the body. We thought maybe he’d been sent to the funeral home by mistake, but they didn’t have him. We’re checking to see if maybe someone took him by mistake.”
“By mistake?” Lara tested the words on her tongue and didn’t like the sarcasm. “A mistake as in, oops, I meant to get Aunt Janie but picked up Brian Haley by mistake. Or the kind of mistake that goes I have something to hide and don’t want anyone to find out what it is.”
Brody squared his shoulders, the leather utility belt creaking as he adjusted his posture. “That’s why we’re talking.”
The innuendo dawned on Lara. She crossed her arms and leaned against the nurse’s station. “Then why don’t you start with your deputy. She had access and motive. In fact, I know four other women in town that Brian was fooling around with. He was a busy guy. Maybe they didn’t like to share.”
“I’ll need that information. You also realizes that gives you plenty of motive.”
“Motive to want to steal Brian from the coroner? Brody, I didn’t want to be with him when he was alive. Why would I steal him now that he’s dead?”
Ultimately I didn’t like the disrespect in the scene. I tried to make it sarcastic but that wasn’t working. Finding Brian’s dead body behind the wheels of her car was one thing, but I also didn’t want the reader to suspect Lara for an instant. Who wouldn’t want to kill their cheating ex? And the scene also pushed the book too much into the “mystery” category for me. This was not meant to be a mystery, cozy or otherwise. I haven’t used it elsewhere, yet. But I’m sure it will find it’s way in a book sooner or later.
So the scene went in the “saved for later” folder. Here’s another. It’s from The Saint and the Sinner, a finalist in the RS category of the Golden Heart. Here Jonas is running toward the heroine, not in anger at her specifically but the heroine doesn’t know that at the time.
Jonas skidded to a stop as Heather shrank away from him, her arms raised to protect her from the expected blows. Her body curled in on itself, the shoulders dropping forward. But it wasn’t the physical reaction that stopped him in his tracks. It was the lack of emotion that stilled him and drained the tension from his knotted fists and shoulders.
Her sapphire eyes glassed over like chips of blue ice. She did not clench her hands in a defensive manner – Heather wasn’t ready to fight. Instead, they were held wide to provide the widest measure of protection. Jonas knew Heather had learned she couldn’t ward off the physical blows, but she could wrap herself in a cocoon of her own making and keep her heart from being any more wounded than necessary.
Jonas had learned to defend himself but he’d never been a man to strike out in anger. The anger had been much more useful turned in on himself.
What kind of life had instilled such instinct in this woman?
“I would never hit you, Heather.”
She flinched at the sound of his voice and the trembling motion of her body was enough to break his heart. At this moment Jonas wanted nothing more than to wrap Heather in his arms and promise her anything. Anything to fill the emptiness he saw.
I deleted this much for the same reason as I did the earlier example. I didn’t want my readers to think of violence when they saw Jonas. I don’t know that even the mistaken impression could be erased and I also know for some women a scene like this could be a trigger. So the scene didn’t fit the characterization I wanted for Jonas.
As you can tell I still have these scenes and I’m sure I can rewrite them when the time comes and use them in another book.
Writing is creating and not everything works the first time. That doesn’t mean it’s not good stuff. Sometimes it’s just not good for the current work in progress.