When Is It Junk?

trashAnd how do you know?

I’ve had this conversation with a number of authors.  They tell me that they spent the entire morning writing a thousand … maybe two thousand words and come away well satisfied with the work.  Then, perhaps later that day, or the next, they read it over again, discover it was junk and delete the entire portion.  I always have to wince when I hear that.

Okay, maybe it didn’t move the story along.  Perhaps ultimately it had no bearing or importance to the overall plot.  But to delete thousands of words?  For myself, I’d find that difficult, if not impossible.  I’m one of those people who cringe at the very thought of erasing hours of work.  I’m also one of those people who re-read what I’d worked on before, add and edit as I go and then continue the story.

Does that help keep me on track as far as the story goes?  Maybe.  It seems to work for me.  I rarely find myself reading over something I’d written, decide its totally stinks and therefore must be destroyed.  If something doesn’t sound quite right, I rework it until it does.  If all else fails, I’ll cut that portion, but still keep it on the off chance that I might be able to use it further on in the story, or in a different story altogether.

I’ve probably said it before, but I’m a very visual person.  I try to see the story in my mind and work it out before I begin.  That’s probably what keeps me on track.

At least, I hope it does.

As a reader or a writer … do you find yourself reading a book, find a portion that jars you out of the story and wonder what on earth that author was thinking to keep it in?  I know I have.

About Liz Kreger

Liz Kreger writes science fiction/romances and to date, has two books published by Samhain Publishing ... FORGET ABOUT TOMORROW and PROMISE FOR TOMORROW. Liz is presently branching out to contemporary paranormals and is experimenting with urban fantasy.
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13 Responses to When Is It Junk?

  1. Edie Ramer says:

    When I cut that much – and I do 😥 – it’s almost always because it’s taking the book in the wrong direction. I usually save what I cut, and almost never go back to it.

    While reading other books, I sometimes think they’ve gone on too long about something. If that happens two or three times in the book, I usually stop reading.

    • Liz Kreger says:

      You never go back to it, Edie? Even if you think it might work in a different story? Here’s where I’m wincing over the lost time. I guess because I have such a limited amount of time to write, it hurts to think of any of it being wasted. Not that making mistakes and fixing wrong directions are wasted … but its gotta hurt.

  2. Misty Evans says:

    Liz, I’m like you. I cringe at destroying large chunks of stories. In the past, I’ve cut and pasted them to an empty file and saved them just in case. I’ve then used them later on in the story or in a sequel if it’s a series. If nothing else, I use them as peeks into the creation of the story for readers by posting them in my Yahoo group or using them for a blog post. It’s like a bonus on a music album or the deleted scenes of a movie that they tack on as a bonus on the DVD. Some readers won’t care, others will love to see what got cut. I believe we can use all those mistarts or redos for something! They just need a bit of recycling. 🙂

    • Liz Kreger says:

      Oooo … good to know I’m not the only one who does that, Misty. The cut and paste into a “maybe I’ll use that later” file. I know that I enjoy reading cut scenes on an author’s website, so that’s a good use for it.

  3. Amy Atwell says:

    I’m like Misty. I have scenes that I write during my Discovery Draft (that early draft when the story is taking shape). When I re-read, I always find that some of those scenes helped me to understand the characters, but they don’t really move the plot forward. When that happens, I cut them to a Cuttings file for that book. That document fills up with a myriad of snippets and full scenes that don’t wind up in the final book.
    Amy Atwell`s last blog was …Favorite Christmas Stories

    • Liz Kreger says:

      I like the idea of a “Cuttings” file, Amy. I think I did something like that for one of my books. Amazing what little treasures you find when you read over them again.

  4. I’m with you, Liz, about the cutting. I won’t do it. BUT…I’ve found a work around that seem to work for me. I leave it in and write the scene I really want out on the page. When it comes time to do revisions, which is usually about a month later, I’m more removed from the story and it’s easier to do the hacking with a Hannibal Lector like conscience. :mrgreen:

    As for scenes that have jarred me out of story, there have been plenty of them. Those books usually get thrown across the room. There haven’t been any dents in my walls for a while, so reading life has been good.

    • Liz Kreger says:

      I like your idea, Marcia. And I agree. Coming back to something at a later time makes sense. You’re more removed and able to see the problem clearer.

      The scene I’d read recently wasn’t enough to make the book a wall banger, since it was an author that I love, but it did make me wonder what she was thinking to leave it in.

  5. Liz, I tend to write very, very slowly for this reason — I don’t usually cut out a lot because I have to think about the words so much before they ever make it into the manuscript, LOL — but, like Edie, if I fear the story is headed down the wrong path, I’ll delete and rewrite. And I have kept a few special scenes that needed to be cut from According to Jane to have onhand if I ever wanted to share them with readers ;).

    • Liz Kreger says:

      Maybe that’s why I don’t delete too much, Marilyn. I write extremely slowly as well. As I said, I visualize scenes in my head before I write them, so I usually have a pretty good idea of direction before I continue the storyline.

  6. LOL, I’m the queen of the cut. I’m ruthless. I do cut and paste into a Cuts file, but I have probably used that material two or three times in all the years I’ve been writing. It’s more a security blanket than anything else.

    And I often find I’m writing out the backstory in the stuff I cut. It helps me get a better handle on my characters, but my readers don’t need to read it. And woe to anything that slows the pace. Snip, snip, snip.

    • Liz Kreger says:

      😯 Totally understand establishing the backstory to better root yourself into the tale, Michelle. However, I’m still cringing at the “snip, snip, snip”. 🙂

  7. Dale Mayer says:

    Hi Liz,

    I’m with Michelle. I cut, cut and cut. I do save in a file but never go into the file again, unless I’m moving scenes around.

    I’ve been known to cut tens of thousands if they were wrong.
    Dale Mayer`s last blog was …An awesome way to start the day!

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