The Cutting Room Floor
My Google Drive is littered with countless documents with a sentence, a thought, a character name, or a deleted scene that will never see the light of day. I’m not even going to admit how much room is taken up by these sorts of things (okay, that’s partially because I’m too lazy to go digging to find out), but it’s a lot. I’m a proponent of saving everything.
I have stuff I wrote when I was 11. ELEVEN, people. Twenty years ago. This is stuff that should’ve been burned at the altar of dignity, and yet there it is in a nice little manila envelope titled “do not read or else.” Or else what, you might ask? I’m a writer. I can come up with something. (Not that I have to worry about it right now, considering I have no idea where said envelope is, but that’s entirely beside the point.)
I’ve insisted for years that there’s something in there… somewhere. Surely there has to be a diamond in the rough, even if it’s just a phrase or a concept or the frame of the mirror in that story I wrote in the sixth grade— Something. Right? So don’t throw it away, because you never know when you might need it!
The problem is that when you’re writing, you have to get rid of things. Thankfully, people like me can rest easy knowing we can still save it somewhere out of the light of day, but it doesn’t make it any less painful to cut out scenes from books. Ask me to cut a line from a book, and I’ll whine and insist it needs to be in there. Why? Because I said so. (I spend too much time around a five-year-old, okay?)
Sometimes, it’s because it’s painful to hit the delete button and watch 2k words just vanish. Maybe it’s a really great scene, but it just doesn’t work in that particularly book. Or a lot of reasons I’m not going to bore you by listing off. Anyway, this has been a real pain in the arse for me. Parting is not sweet sorrow, goddamn it. Parting is utter torture, and I’ll have none of that!
When I was writing Refraction, the sixth book of my paranormal dystopian series, my friend-slash-editor-slash-torturer asked me why a chapter was in there. Um, because I liked it? As it turns out, she thought the arc should be three or four chapters long, at least, instead of crammed into one chapter. I don’t know how familiar you are with burnout, but by the time you’re ready to release a book (if you’re me), you’re ready to tell people to BURN IT WITH FIRE because you don’t want to look at it again. Add more chapters? Now? Then edit them? Not happening.
So, with a requiem for a scene blaring in my head, I cut the chapter. (Then promptly put it into another file to save it, where I eventually edited out certain elements and put it back into the edited second release. I know. I’m hopeless.)
It’s been a year since I had to cut that scene, and it hasn’t gotten any easier. I just finished a collaboration (actually, two, but shhh) with a new author, Morgan Noel, and the damn thing topped 100k. It got way out of our control, the characters went off and did stupid shit (more so than usual), and the plot altered. Now I’m going into edits with the understanding that chapters — plural. CHAPTERS, with an s! — are going to be cut. Twitchy does not begin to cover it, but it’s one of those necessary evils: sometimes they have to go. Great line or not, favorite chapter or not, sometimes they just don’t fit anymore.
Recently, Morgan and I had to rewrite a scene in Spoiled three times. That meant deleting almost a whole chapter each time and starting back over because it just wasn’t working right. It was painful, but in the end, I’m pleased with what we came up with. If I’d clung to my usual stubbornness, we’d have something mediocre, and I don’t think the book would’ve turned out as well. (Oh, and I still copied the deleted content into another document. I’m still recovering from my addiction.)
I swear, if one person says in a review that Spoiled or Untamed, Unhinged, and Unchanged really needed XYZ scene, I’m going to throw something. Speaking of, I’m going to take the opportunity to do an itty-bitty plug for Spoiled, since it’s going to be coming out soon. It’s different from my others, which was one of the things that made it hard to write and ended up with cuts and rewrites and things that made me flail and whine. I mean, be totally cool as a cucumber. It’s like Urban Fantasy meets Angsty Romance meets Paranormal Light meets Hurt/Comfort meets Taboo Stepbrother Lust meets Dystopian meets … Okay, you get the drift. It’s lighter than my usual fare, but it’s nowhere near fluffy bunnies and rainbows. (Yeah, we totally set out to write “light erotica” and ended up with “angsty romance,” if that tells you anything.)
So, I hope you’ll agree that the cuts and rewrites were worth it. If you’re intrigued by my amazing categorization efforts, here’s the blurb. Watch my page/twitter/profile for news, because release day shouldn’t be too far off!
R. Phoenix & Morgan Noel
The capture of an arms dealer’s spoiled lover should’ve been a win for the humans struggling to survive their harsh lives in the slums. Powerless and outnumbered, it seems like only a matter of time before Romulus betrays the Butcher. But when Kieran realizes their prisoner is none other than his stepbrother, he has to face the harsh truths he’s been avoiding for too long. Torn between loyalty for his new family of humans and the witch he has more than brotherly feelings for, Kieran must make a decision that could leave him with nothing.
Love and other indoor sports,