Tuesday, October 21, 2014
Is there anything more painful for an author than to hit the ‘Delete’ button? We’ve given life to our characters, created scenes that we know are perfect, and bled onto the pages. How in the world can an editor see what we can’t and insist that some pages—maybe even entire scenes—need to go? The horror.
But if you’re in the game long enough, it will eventually happen. My latest release, The Promise, was a literary endeavor that was way out of the box for me, and as such, my editor set the bar really high. I was crossing genres, and she wanted a really tight story that popped on every page. But I initially had a mental block while writing the book.
The Promise is inspired by a true story, and I knew that once my character got on a plane to head to Pakistan, all of the real-life events would come hurdling back at me, taking me back to a time that was painful and scary. So, I prolonged putting my character on the plane. Instead, I sent a secondary character cross-country, filled the pages with a bit of fluff, and basically wrote about a hundred pages that didn’t help to further the story, but caused it do drag. In the end, it was delete, delete, delete.
So, is there an upside when this happens? At the time, it’s hard to see one. But looking back, there was a silver lining. Perhaps the reader didn’t need those hundred pages, but I did. It was an opportunity to get to know my characters. In that regard, I can’t consider it wasted time and effort.
Have you ever written a letter and not sent it? Maybe it was just for you, a way to vent, part of a healing process, or an incentive to forgive. Sometimes, deleted scenes end up in the same ‘File 13’ as other projects that weren’t really for anyone else’s benefit, except our own.
In the scene that never made it into The Promise, I felt like I was sitting in the backseat while my character drove to New York City. I learned a lot about him, his motivations, hopes, and dreams. I was a silent player in my own book, watching and learning. In hindsight, these tidbits weren’t anything that the reader needed to know, but the journey enabled me to incorporate the emotions my character was feeling through other ways that drove the story forward.
At the end of that trip to New York City, Tate and I parted ways, and I returned to my computer to hit the delete button. But, we had that time together, and I returned from the adventure with a much better understanding about who Tate really is.
As authors, we must realize that even the deleted scenes serve a purpose. As readers, we appreciate when an editor or author has gone the extra mile to keep any unnecessary filler out of the book.
As a reader, how many times have you skimmed sections of books that really should have been deleted or shortened? And author friends, as painful as the deleting process is, has it benefitted you in ways that I mentioned?
Beth Wiseman is the best-selling author of the Daughters of the Promise series and the Land of Canaan series. Wiseman has a deep affection for the Amish and their simpler way of life, and while she plans to continue writing Amish love stories, she is also branching out into other areas. In her daring new novel, Wiseman jumps way outside the box. The Promise will take readers far away from Amish country and the small Texas towns of her previous releases to a dangerous place on the other side of the world. Inspired by actual events, Wiseman believes this is the book she’s been working toward for a long time.