Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Revisions, Cutting a Character even if it's Painful, and the Art of the Delete Button

I turned in my latest round of revisions yesterday. 

To sum them up:

I cut 4,000 words. I can't remember the specific words. Maybe that's why I cut them. Because they were unmemorable. 

I also cut an entire character. 

Two revisions ago (yes, I mark time by past revision deadlines) I created a character named Ferron. She had dreadlocks, and she could really kick butt. However, despite her lithe appearance, she had a bad habit of bulking up the storyline. 

So I had to cut her. I started with her fingers, then I cut her toes.

Finally, my study was filled with severed limbs, but my story was leaner. 

Revising is a give and take between the writer and the editor. Getting rid of Ferron was my editor's idea at first. When I wrote Ferron in, my editor was all:

"I like her! But I think we should either flesh her out, or cut her."*

So I fleshed Ferron out. I gave her a backstory and a love interest. And for more fleshy addition, I added some flesh colored pants for her to wear. 

I sent it back to my editor, and I was all, "Fleshy enough for you?"

And she was all, "Not quite fleshy. More bloated." Then she gently said, "Let's either make her useful, or cut her."

And I came back with, "But she has dreadlocks! And she can kick so high!"

But here's the thing: no matter how cool she was (admittedly much cooler than I will ever be) she was dragging the storyline down. And my editor was smart enough to give me a chance to see it for myself. That takes an incredible amount of patience! 

So, let's lower our heads, and give a moment of silence for the loss of Ferron. She will be missed. Only by me. Readers, however, will be happy she's gone.

Before I actually finished my first book, I heard authors talk of "writing practice scenes" and then deleting them. I couldn't imagine deleting an entire scene, because it took me so long to write every word. But so far, on the EVERNEATH sequel, I've deleted nearly 40,000 words. 

That's a book's worth. It's getting much easier for me to delete words.

*conversation paraphrased


  1. FerronI cut a character once. And almost 30,000 words. More if you count the words I replaced with other words. Feels so good to realize you don't need them!

    Still, I hope you saved Ferron somewhere-if only to share on your blog. Deleted scenes are cool!

    1. Huh. Speaking of words that should have been cut...

  2. Brodi, you've hit the nail on the head. It is so painful the first time you realize that all those pieces and parts you agonized over now have to go. In the end, it is the mark of a good writer to know when the writing has to stop and the editing begin.

    Goodbye, Ferron, sorry we didn't get to meet you. Of course, maybe Ferron has her own story to tell and a book of her own? Just a thought.

  3. Odd, I'm in revisions and so far I've nearly doubled every scene I've touched. I see future problems....

  4. LOL. I've always wondered why everyone gets all funny about cutting or killing characters. Until last night .... I killed off one of my favorites. Yeah - he seriously dies. :( It was terrible and horrible for me, but... it needed to happen.

    Glad you figured out what to do with Ferron. Hard, but obviously for the best :)

  5. I save all my deleted scenes/pages/paragraphs in a separate document just in case. It's over 70,000 almost another books.

  6. What?! You paraphrased your conversation with your editor?! I want to know exact words and exact details! ;) Sorry you had to cut a character, but if you feel it makes for a better story, then I'm glad you did. But, I am truly sorry for your loss.

  7. I am so sorry for your loss. I've never had to cut characters, but I have cut scenes I labored over. Once I even cut the scene that inspired the entire story, but the story needed to go in a different direction. I mourn those scenes, but I have them saved in my "WIP Graveyard" file, 'cuz I can't quite let them go of them completely.

  8. Maybe Ferron can resurface in Everneath 3: The Everneathiest :)

  9. Love this post! I've been cutting an entire character during these revisions - after upping her involvement during my last round - and you've given me some much-needed enthusiasm for the task.

  10. Great post on editing. I think if writers don't think they need to cut words, they aren't looking hard enough.
    Wagging Tales