When you cut a scene, get rid of it.

scissors--cliprt

THERE ARE MANY DIFFERENT TYPES of people in this world. Those that save things for sentimental value; those that hold onto things because they might be able to use it later; those that get rid of things because they want clear space; and those that pack-rat until there’s no room in the house. And I think writers, for the most part, fall into one of those categories, too.

See, when a writer writes a story, a lot of that story ends up on the cutting room floor. Like a movie, a novel has to go through lots of revisions and deleting to make it as tight and as entertaining as possible. And those extraneous scenes that seemed good when the concept was started? Well, if they don’t hold attention or move the plot from Point A to Point B, they’re gonna get ditched.

Terri Herman-Ponce
Terri Herman-Ponce

A book goes through many lives before it hits the shelves, online or brick-and-mortar. It starts with an idea that morphs into words and scenes and chapters on the page, until the draft is completed. Oh, but that’s not where the story ends. That’s where it begins. Because that’s when developmental editors and beta readers and all kinds of other editors step in to help make that story shine. To give it zing. And getting there often means deleting scenes that just don’t make the cut. They’re boring, they’re filled with back story, they lack conflict…the point is, they add zero value to story’s entertainment value. And that’s where a writer has to make the very difficult decision of deleting a scene.

A scene they may very well love.

So what happens to that deleted scene once it hits the skids? Some authors save those scenes for other stories, while others post them on their website as a teaser to readers. A kind of behind-the-scenes look at what didn’t make the final cut. As for me? I delete ‘em. Yep. Get rid of them, free and clear.

You may be wondering why I do this, especially after I’ve sweated out my writing. I mean, if I was working so hard on my novel, why would I dump a piece of it that may have taken me a day or a week, or longer, to write?

A good question. Because, for me, once a scene is deleted it becomes clutter. If it’s not usable in a story, then something about it was off to begin with. It’s damaged goods. And if it’s damaged goods for one story, odds are it’s damaged goods for another. So, I won’t be able to use it in another novel, and even if I wanted to it probably wouldn’t fit the new story. To me, every chapter, every scene, every word of every story I write is particular to that novel.

And once I officially type The End, it’s over. It’s time to move on to the next project.

So there you have it. But what about you? As a reader, do you enjoy reading deleted scenes? As a writer, do you like keeping them. If yes or no, why? I’d love to know.

Please click the book cover image to read more about In This Life by Terri Herman-Ponce.

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  • I’m in the “save it, you might need it later camp,” but I never do.

    Computer files are good for that – they don’t clutter up the house, and, yes, you can go back if you had to.

    And what if you ever become truly famous, and someone wants to spend their whole life (or a big part of it) studying YOU? Don’t you want to save all that cr… – er, background material – for your biographer/hagiographer/disciple?

    Sometimes the only way I can let go of things is to know I could go back. Fortunately, this little bad habit occupies a box or two of paper, and a few MB of computer storage – and can go when I move next.

    I repeat: I never go back, but is somehow reassures me that I could.

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