Imagine working the cutting room floor: a simple trick for editing your early draft

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your humble host

From time to time we like to feature insights by other authors here on the blog. This time, Allie Potts, a friend of the blog and victim of our internet show Writers Off Task With Friends, pays a visit to help figure out yet another intricacy of the writerly process.

Here’s Allie.


 

You get the call that almost all authors dream about.

A studio is interested in making your novel into a feature film,

even better they like you so much, they are allowing you to retain creative control. The only problem is the budget. The studio says it’s all it can afford to spend, but there simply isn’t enough money to pay for all the scenes and characters you created in your 200,000-word masterpiece.

The choice is yours, but unless you are so committed to your original vision you are willing to pony up millions of dollars you don’t have, and effectively paying the studio to make your project,

something or someone has GOT to GO.

The problem I find with many books is this is exactly  the decision that should have been contemplated before the book made its way into print,

and as an author myself; I’ll admit it is something I’ve had to learn the hard way too.

Traditionally published authors and some with the smaller press have the advantage of enjoying in-house editorial talent; however, that is not to say that this built-in support network is fail-safe. They may cut too much, but they can also cut too little in fear of missing a deadline or bruising a talent’s ego.

I’ve read just as many, if not more, traditionally published books as I have Indies where a story belabored a point to excess

or left me scratching my head at the introduction of one too many characters.

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author Allie Potts

Editors can only work so many miracles. At a certain point, it falls back onto the author to provide the cleanest manuscript possible. In this regard, Indies have a mindset advantage. If you are utilizing, as you should, professional editorial services, these services are charged by the word, and the fees come out of your pocket. Therefore you want to ensure you’ve done your due diligence prior to submission and aren’t paying an editor for words that don’t matter.

Now when I start editing a scene, I ask myself a basic question:

If I had to pay for a set design or pay an actor’s daily wages, would the scene’s payoff be worth the expense?

It’s amazing what answering that simple question will do.

While it is often ‘yes’ as I like to believe I write with a point in mind, it isn’t always.

  • Those excellent lines delivered by the villain’s assistant’s best friend? Yeah, I might decide to keep the lines, but only if I can find a way to incorporate them into a more supporting character’s script.

  • That abandoned skyscraper with hidden panels and secret rooms built up once to add drama but never referred to again? I scale back the description or better yet, relocate its mysterious contents to a more versatile set where I can get more bang out of my creative dollar.

Books in many ways are superior to film in that anything is possible.

Subplots can be layered with subplots and a carousel of revolving characters can be paraded in front of a captive reader as easily as creating a new name. However, there is still a price to pay, a budget to account for your reader’s attention.

Much like the studio investing in a film’s production,

“you, as an author, are asking readers to invest their time into your story’s development.”

– Allie Potts

You want them to want more, but sometimes the best way to do that is to make due with less. To paraphrase William Faulkner, don’t be afraid kill your literary darlings, and always be willing to leave reel on the cutting room floor. Your readers will thank you.


 

Allie Potts is the author of The Fair & Foul, Project Gene Assist Book One and is celebrating the launch of the second book in the series, The Watch & Wand. Set in a not too distant future, the series takes place at a time when science meets magic and biology merges with technology, and tackles what it means to be human.

Additionally, she is the author of An Uncertain Faith, a Rocky Row Novel, a cozy mystery/women’s literature story written for those who find themselves caught between a rock and a hard place.

When not finding ways to squeeze in 72 hours into a 24 day or chasing after children determined to turn her hair gray before its time, Allie enjoys stories of all kinds. Her favorites, whether they are novels, film, or simply shared aloud with friends, are usually accompanied with a glass of wine or cup of coffee in hand.

A self-professed science geek and book nerd, Allie writes everyday style stories, flash fiction, tips and tricks, and the occasional not-a-review review at www.alliepottswrites.com.

Book links include:

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Social Media Links

 

13 thoughts on “Imagine working the cutting room floor: a simple trick for editing your early draft

  1. Minutia will kill you. Characters and over-layered story lines are like being in the wrong like at the grocery store. You have all this hard drive space and some time, lets use them ALL. Don’t.
    However, many indie and in-house editors are not, and will tell you up front they don’t want to be content editors. Ultimately, we are responsible for our content. “Authors” often get into that bag where their words are like children and offing them is like cutting off an arm.
    True story. Band’s second album. (Back in the vinyl days). First album, girl singer carried them all. This time the band members all contribute. They show up in the studio with all their efforts self edited and pared down to fifty five minutes. The producer listens to them all.
    “Great. You have maybe 36 minutes, tops. I’ll be back in two hours, get it sorted.”
    “You’re supposed to help with that.”
    “It’s your band. I don’t care if there’s blood on the floor when I get back. Thirty six minutes.”

    Liked by 3 people

    • Brutal, but maybe the best way to force only what was the absolute best stuff to make the album.

      And hey, I had what’s been referred to as the history of wine making that I had to cut out of An Angel On Her Shoulder. I was convinced readers needed to know why the old man was so angry – he slaved over creating a wine business from scratch and his kids didn’t want to be a part of it with him. That sentence, which was about three sentences in the finished product, was originally a chapter with about 3000 words. My editor said, “Cut all this.”

      I thought it was cold, but she had even more for me.

      When there was a scene with the family debating over joining the wine club for a discount on the wine purchases, my editor said, “And now there’s math. Cut.”

      Her ability to deliver the unvarnished truth is why she’s my editor – and we’re still friends because I turn my head and deliver the hatchet blow where it needs to go.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. That’s a really interesting way to view a wip, Allie – from the perspective of a film producer. Editorial support is helpful in that it lends the work a fresh set of eyes, but you’re right that ultimately the choices are the author’s. Congrats again on the release of The Watch & Wand. 😀

    Liked by 2 people

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