January 24th, 2009

Doh! (House)

The Cut File

I really envy those writers who are able to make vast changes to their manuscripts when they're editing them. I know writers who think nothing of retelling a story from a different point of view or dumping the whole novel and redrafting from scratch.

Me, I don't find that so easy. In fact, in the past, I found it close to impossible. It's not that I'm not aware that the changes are necessary. I can see exactly where the story isn't working. It's just that I have far too great an attachment to what's on the page.

Right now, I'm nearing the end of my first pass through of the Secrets of the Dragon Tombs novel, and I know the lead up to the climax is too flat. There are too many action scenes that don't up the stakes. Even though there are bits about them that I love and which are immense fun, they're holding the book back.

So, some of them have to go, and other parts of the book have to be rewritten with the stakes upped and people doing different things. I even know how to do it.

A few years ago, though, I wouldn't have been able to manage it. I would instead have tinkered and edited and reworked, and I've had made it better, but I wouldn't have made it good enough.

That was until I discovered that amazing thing called 'cut and paste'. Yep, the wonders of basic word processing are my saviour.

Each time I start a novel, I now create a document named 'cuts'. Into this I cut and paste every unnecessary or flat scene, every piece of fun and spark that I love but which is in the way of the story. And I save it. So, it's still there. I haven't lost it. I tell myself that, if I need or want to restore it, I can in an instant.

But the truth is, I never have. I've never even looked back at that cut stuff.

Now wouldn't it be easier if my brain would just co-operate from the start and let me hit the delete key instead?


And as a bonus link, here are Joss Whedon's top ten writing tips, most of which are just as relevant to novels as to screenplays. Enjoy.