Scenes From the Cutting Room Floor – ASCH

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I often get asked how long does it take me to write a book. That’s a tough question. Do they mean how long does it take to write the first draft? How long it takes to edit the book? I wrote the first draft of A Second Chance House in maybe four to six months. Honestly, I forget. It spent eleven months in edits. That part I will not forget. I wrote the first draft of the second book in the series The Bridge Home in six months because I started it twice, wrote half and then trashed it to start over. Bridge is in edits now. I wrote the third book in the series The Essence of Whiskey and Tea in eight weeks. No one has seen Whiskey yet except me. Very different process for each. But here’s one thing that is the same in all my books. Some scenes just don’t make it into the finished product – like in the movies.

When a movie is filmed, many scenes are cut from the final version for a variety of reasons. I doubt film makers actually cut the film like they did in the old days, but the process is still the same. Get rid of what doesn’t work to tell the story.

Every word on the page has to count. If a scene isn’t doing it’s job, then it has to go no matter how much I like it. Many times I’ve had to delete cute dialogue, heartfelt confessions, or fight scenes. But I don’t actually delete them. I cut and paste them into another document. I’ve sweated over many of the scenes that don’t get used. I don’t have the heart to rid my world of them completely.

I thought my blog readers might enjoy seeing a scene that didn’t make into A Second Chance House. Think of it as a special treat for being my constant readers. Thank you for taking the journey with me.

 

Nothing good happened when the phone rang at four a.m. Grace pawed for the rattling phone on the pillow next to her. Blaise’s pillow, but he wasn’t there.  She had three weeks before she closed up the house and met him on the west coast. “Hello?”

“Babe? I think I’m dying.” Blaise’s voice was a breathless mumble.

She sat straight up, sleep forgotten. He wasn’t playing a practical joke. Not this time. “What’s the matter?” She switched the bedside lamp on and blinked against the glare.

“I’m sick. I’ve been puking for two hours and my side hurts. I mean fucking hurts. I can’t take it.”

“Do you think its food poisoning?” What was she going to do for him while she was in New Jersey and he was in California? Panic squeezed her throat and filled her lungs like water.

“I don’t know. Colton and I, hang on.” The phone sounded as if it slammed into the floor.

He hurled. She cringed.

“Sorry.” His voice croaked. “Colton and I had dinner around six. By eleven, my insides hurt so badly I threw up right in the kitchen sink. Is that food poisoning?”

“I never had food poisoning. Did you call Colton?” If they had eaten the same thing, then he’d be sick as a dog too.

“No, I wanted to talk to you. I thought I’d feel better if I heard your voice. Babe, this sucks. Hang on.” More hurling. “Sorry.”

“Where are you?”

“Curled up on the bathroom floor.”

She imagined him in a ball on the floor with his cheek pressed against the cold tile floor. “I’m calling Colton and telling him to go over. You need to go to the hospital.” She had to try to help.

“No, don’t hang up.”

“Blaise, I’ll be two minutes. Just keep the phone nearby. I love you.” It broke her heart to do it, but she pressed the end button and dialed Colton’s number. He was a mile away from Blaise and could help him.

She pounded out the numbers on the screen and waited for the ringing. Why did they continue to live on opposite coasts? She’d put her house on the market as soon as this was over. Please, let him be all right.

“Damn it, answer, Colton.”

“Yeah?” Colton’s brusque voice echoed in her ear.

“It’s Grace. Did you eat the same thing as Blaise for dinner?”

“What are you talking about?”

Fear pushed its way up from her stomach and shook her vocal chords. She lost what little patience she could muster. “Did you eat the same thing for dinner as your brother?” She stilted her words so the dumb ass would follow her.

“No, why?” His voice took on a softer tone or had she imagined it?

             Dear Lord, it was his appendix. “I need you to go to Blaise’s. He’s on the bathroom floor throwing up and says his stomach hurts.”

“Are you shitting me?”

“Yes, Colton. I am. I’ve decided to call you at one a.m., tell you Blaise is sick to see if you’re stupid enough to go over and find out. Please go to your brother’s house and call him an ambulance.” She hung up and dialed Blaise.

“Babe?” He wheezed.

“Colton is on his way. Just stay put. I’ll stay on the phone with you until he gets there and then he’s going to get you to the hospital.” Hopefully, in enough time.

 

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4 thoughts on “Scenes From the Cutting Room Floor – ASCH

  1. So true — the answer to the question How long does it take to write a novel? is: It depends. Every experience is different; each project has its own requirements. Some concepts are harder to plot than others. Some are research-intensive. Some require more time in editorial than others. There’s just no predicting.

    The great thing about writing a lot — which is another reason I blog as well as write fiction — is that it teaches you to be very unsentimental about what you’ve put on the page. I’m my toughest editor, and have no problem whatsoever throwing out entire passages, rewriting long conversations from scratch, and “killing my darlings,” as they say. I had a writing teacher, years ago, who told me that you’re going to think that everything you’ve written is etched in stone: I wrote it therefore it is. No, he said — words are malleable. They’re clay; they need to be endlessly shaped and chiseled until you arrive at something worth the space it takes up. Being a great writer means being a great editor.

    1. I can’t agree more! I have no problem cutting my words. It breaks my heart because of how hard it is to create the words in the first place, but I do it. The Bridge Home, the second book in the Heritage River series, I started twice, got half way through and then trashed the entire book. It wasn’t until round three that I was able to keep going until the end. I knew the story wasn’t right. I won’t keep a story if I know it’s wrong. The Bridge Home isn’t the only time I’ve done that. The story and characters have to right or I’ve failed my readers. I won’t do that.

      1. I’ve found — and maybe it’s just me — that I always know in my gut when something isn’t right with a story I’m working on, be it a macrostructural issue, or a flat scene, or even a bad line of expository dialogue. I always know it in my heart, but sometimes I try to ignore what my gut is telling me.

        And where beta-feedback is most useful, I’ve found, is pointing out those little problems to which I kept turning a blind eye. Those kind of notes don’t tell me anything I didn’t already know, but they force me to confront the fact that something isn’t working, and now I’m just going to have to find a solution, like it or not! Good feedback just tells you what you already knew but couldn’t admit. And once a reader points out a problem, I’m motivated to find an innovative solution.

      2. I have learned after writing ten books (three of which are not and never will be published) that I know when something isn’t working. I try to describe the feeling as banging into a wall. I now honor that feeling and say, “nope. It’s not right. Fix it.” Which will often drive my critique partners a little batty because I’ll turn down their suggestions, as wonderful as they may be. I just know something else isn’t working in the story and the immediate fix isn’t the answer. I also know when something is wrong it’s probably because I don’t know what my character wants. Because when something is working it’s as if the ceiling has lifted and I can soar. (I like that feeling better.)

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