Monday, August 6, 2012

A Necessary Evil

I’m a plotter.  Every book I write begins with an idea about a character that quickly develops into a scene.  Then I figure out what has to happen to make my hero or heroine get their happy ever after and write the outline that’s my road map for the book.  And I’ll stick by that map pretty faithfully.  Except, like anyone who’s ever followed a map, I sometimes find myself on a detour.  I don’t always know it’s a detour.  In fact, quite often I don’t.  Until my beta reader or my editor tells me “This scene needs to go.”
Gasp!  No!  Not my baby!  
Sometimes because of word count limitations.  Sometimes because the scene isn’t really necessary to the plot.  Often because the scene just doesn’t work properly.  Deleting scenes is never pleasant, but a necessary evil.
In the opening scene of Only Scandal Will Do, I moved from the current dilemma of the heroine to a flashback of the events of that morning.  It was a fun scene--Katarina and her brother Jack having breakfast and when Katarina doesn’t get her way, she resorts to…well…a food fight.  The reader got a good idea of Kat’s and Jack’s personalities and their devotion to each other.  
The problem?  It was a flashback.  That scene stopped the immediate action and acted as an information dump.  That didn’t help the book one bit.  So no matter how much fun the scene seemed, I had to let it go.
What also comes with cutting a scene, besides the heartbreak, is often a tendency to second-guess yourself.  Should I have kept that scene in?  Would the book be stronger if I had?  There’s no true way to know.  That’s what your beta readers and editors are for.  If they notice a hole where that scene used to be, hopefully they’ll tell you and you can plug it back in.  Or they may be the ones who say, “You don’t really need that scene.  It’s slowing the pace.  It’s redundant.  It doesn’t work.”  Not the best note to get, but ultimately you’re sacrificing a part for the good of the whole.
And the scene doesn’t have to completely disappear.
One entire chapter in Scandal became a bone of contention between my readers and I.  They thought the scene should go; I wanted it to stay.  But…it really didn’t forward the action, the chapter wasn’t in the POV of either the hero or the heroine, and the information could be given in later chapters.  And I still didn’t want to let go.  
Finally, a beta reader suggested that I turn the scene into a free read to help promote a later book in the series in which these characters reoccur.  This is a win/win situation for deleted scenes.  You get to keep the scene, readers get a free read, and your novel is the stronger for deleting it.  In fact, I turned the breakfast scene into a free read short story on my blog for Scandal’s release day.  
Who says you can’t have your cake and eat it too?

Kidnapped and sold at auction in a London brothel, Lady Katarina Fitzwilliam squelches an undeniable attraction to the masked stranger who purchased her, pits her wits against him, and escapes him and the scandal that would ruin her life.
Unable to resist temptation in a London brothel, Duncan Ferrers, Marquess of Dalbury, purchases a fiery beauty. She claims she's a lady, but how can she be? No lady of his acquaintance in polite society is anything like her. 
Then he discovers she is who she says, and that this latest romp has compromised her reputation. He knows how that is. One more scandal and he'll be cast out of London society, but he needs a wife who'll provide an heir to carry on his illustrious family's name. He seeks out Katarina, intending only to scotch the scandal, but instead finds his heart ensnared. 
He's betting their future he'll capture her heart, but does he have what it takes to win the wager?
WARNING: A blade-wielding heroine who crosses swords with a master of sensuality.
Author Bio:
Jenna Jaxon is a multi-published author of historical  and contemporary romance who has been reading and writing historical romance since she was a teenager.  A romantic herself, Jenna has always loved a dark side to the genre, a twist, suspense, a surprise.  She tries to incorporate all of these elements into her own writing. 
Jenna lives in Virginia with her family and a small menagerie of pets.  When not reading or writing, she indulges her passion for the theatre, working with local theatres as a director.  She often feels she is directing her characters on their own private stage. 
She has equated her writing to an addiction to chocolate because once she starts she just can’t stop.


Sheri Fredricks said...

Cutting a scene - or even a paragraph - is totally emo. But why, when we know it'll only better our scene and make it stronger in the end? LOL, maybe because it took 30 min. to get that part we're going to cut out juuuust right.

More chocolate is the answer! Best wishes on your most excellent book!

Mel Bourn said...

I can only imagine how difficult it is to change what took time, heart, and effort to make.

Here's wishing for continued success!
bournmelissa at hotmail dot com

Anonymous said...

I used to hate cutting scenes. Now I just want the best book possible.

Allison Merritt said...

Great idea of what to do with a scene you have to cut! I hate cutting scenes myself, I just have tons of them in files sitting there, hiding from reader's eyes.

hotcha12 said...

awesome Jenna! love third cover!

Jenna said...

Sheri--totally emotional! I struggle with each one I have to cut. And yes, more chocolate does salve the wound. LOL Thanks for visiting me today!

Melissa--It is very difficult except in some very particular circumstances. I cut one chapter from my medieval without a blink when I realized it did absolutely nothing to advance the plot or characterizations! Thanks for coming by!

Ella--that is the way you have to look at it. Still stings, but you feel better in the end. :) Thanks for stopping by.

Allison--Sounds like you've got lots of ready made free reads or .99 stories! :) I think it's a great idea, given to me by a fellow CP. I think my mouth stayed open for at least 5 minutes after she made the suggestion. LOL Thanks for coming by!

Casea Major said...

I don't mind cutting scenes. I write so lean I rarely have to -- more often I find myself having to add scenes.

Jenna said...

Hey, hotcha12, thanks! So glad you came by!

Jenna said...

Casea--I actually find adding scenes more difficult because they aren't organic to my outline and therefore don't have the same feeling to me. That's where the CPs and editors are invaluable. Thank you so much for coming by!

Christine Warner said...

Deleting a scene is hard, but I like your idea of keeping it for a free read while on a blog tour or just to post for fun on your own blog!

Congrats on your book sounds like a WINNER!

Anonymous said...

I keep all the scenes I cut in a special folder. So they don't really "go away". They're just in a different place. LOL. Sometimes I fish them out because I discover that I can use it in a different place in the book. Sometimes, like you, I use them as free reads. Sometimes I never use them again. But I can't ever delete them entirely :-)

Brenda said...

I feel your pain. I had a few scenes that had to go too. They were more or less comic relief, but still hard to take out.

I LOVE Only Scandal Will Do.

Patricia Green said...

I'm like Sharon. I keep deleted scenes in another file, or highlight them and then re-version the manuscript and plod forward. Backstory is great for free reads, and readers eat it up. This is a great start for your tour. Keep up the good work!

karen Y. bynum said...

You had me laughing with the "Gasp. Not my baby!" line ;) Totally know that feeling! It's so hard to cut what we've written/poured our souls into...but it turned out wonderfully. Scandal is a fabulous book! Congrats!!! Good luck on your tour!!

Jenna said...

Thank you ladies!

Thanks, Christine! I like to feel the deleted scenes are still helping the overall book. :)

Sharon--I too keep all deleted scenes--just in case! One scene in Scandal came out and went back in like three times. LOL It eventually stayed out. Thanks for coming by!

Brenda--Thank you! I'd love to see those "comic relief bits." I think you posted one on a blog once. It was great! Deleted scenes should be its own genre. LOL

Patricia--Thank you so much!The backstories to your works would make fascinating reading! Why don't you publish some? Hint, hint. :)

Jenna said...

Hey, Karen! Yes, that is exactly the way it feels when you're told to cut. But sadly it must be done sometimes. Thanks for coming by!

Melissa Limoges said...

I've tried to keep in mind that I will have to cut scenes that are a bit unnecessary. Surprisingly, it's easier than I thought it would be. Of course, I did have to give myself a pep talk about letting it go. Your words are your baby after all. :) That was a great idea your reader offered about your deleted scenes though. Good luck with the rest of your tour! :)

Jenna said...

Thanks, Melissa! No, it's not an easy decision to make, but as my title suggests, a necessary evil. :)

Sara Walter Ellwood / Cera duBois said...

I'm a pantser and when I first started to write, I would sometimes have scenes that were really me figuring out my story. They went nowhere. And they all had to be cut. The most painful for me to cut are in my suspenses. I have a habit of putting in the villain's POV--the problem? They take away the suspense.

Good luck, Jenna, and congrats again!

Jenna said...

Well, villain's POV can be done--just look at The Columbo series! But it is difficult, especially in RS. Thanks for stopping by, Cera!

June M. said...

I can't begin to imagine how hard it would be to decide what stays and what goes in a book. And I don't think I would make a good beta reader, what sticks with me is the parts that I love, I kind of forget/gloss over the parts that don't work as much for me. Besides, I would hate to have to tell someone I liked that part of their story was boring/confusing/etc after they work so hard on writing it. To me that would be like telling a friend their child was ugly, lol.
Congrats on the release and I am glad that you found a way to use these scenes that were cut in other ways.