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Blog Content: Using “Outtakes” From Your Novel

 

Currently, I’m editing two of my manuscripts. Or, I should say, “pre-editing” these works-in-progress to prepare them for the hand-off to my dear editor.

At this stage in my writing process, when I have 80,000+ words written per manuscript, I end up sending entire chapters to the cutting room floor. Watching them fall, knowing how much time, energy, and thought I’ve put into each and every line on those pages, makes it painful to think those scenes will never find their way into the hands of my (future) readers.

Is this normal? Do you experience this angst, too?

When constructing a novel, my writing style is to first map out the plot and then develop a series of (almost) standalone mini-stories that I organize as chapters. If you’ve read my work, you know this to be true. When I cut a chapter, that chapter is a complete element, all on its own.

Once a book is published and, presumably, sells a few copies, would readers want to have those bonus chapters? Those “outtakes” from the novel?

I sat at my desk, thinking about my favorite books of all time. I asked myself whether I would want to read every tiny scrap of new material those authors had cut from those stories. Would those details, even if indirectly related to the plot – or not related to the plot, at all – matter to me? The answer is a resounding yes, but one that is rendered impossible by the fact that most of these writers are long since departed from earth. (Jane Austen, Jane Austen, why weren’t you thinking of my needs? I could never get enough of your work.)

Blogs need good content, most especially the blogs of self-published authors completely in charge of their own marketing. Using his or her own original material to throw a few tasty tidbits to his or her readers seems like a reasonably sound use of deleted scenes that would otherwise never see the light of day. It’s also creating a new marketing opportunity that could lead to an expanded readership or, better yet, fan base.

As I pondered the idea of making my cut scenes and chapters available on my website, I wondered if there would there be any drawbacks to opening this new door. Could there be potential repercussions I wasn’t seeing?

Confession: I am still feeling pangs over scenes deleted from manuscripts I wrote as much as six years ago. And, yes, I’ve held on to them, those chapters, on the tiny chance that one of my works could, some beautiful day, become a runaway hit. Or any kind of hit.

Does that decision make me a romantic? Needy? Unrealistic? Smart?

There was only place to go for the answer: Twitter. And so, yesterday morning, I asked my community the following question:

When I sent the tweet, I included no hashtags. Their absence kept the distribution to my own Twitter community. If you’ve seen my tweets before, you’ll know that this is unusual for me. I typically pack in those hashtags, aiming for as wide a reach as possible within Twitter’s writing community.

But not this time.

To my surprise, almost immediately after pressing send, two very different, very firm opinions on the subject of “outtakes” from a novel had been expressed.

 


Inadvertently, by asking the question of what to do with cuttings from a manuscript, I had set off a brief, but vigorous debate. There is passion in those responses, and in the ones that follow. In a few of them, I felt there were even shades of the now-fading debate about whether self-published books are “real” books.

I hadn’t seen that coming.



Certainly, traditional publishing operates with a different set of rules and boundaries than does self-publishing. Not everything is different, of course, but the process of writing a novel with the direct and immediate input of a publishing house team will alter the dynamic of putting words on the page.

It’s an experience I hope to have, one day, admittedly, if only to better understand the other side of the coin.

Self-published authors are equal parts writer and marketer, and often rely on the input of family, close friends, and writing groups for story guidance, or as sounding boards for new ideas. While helpful, these loyal and generous people are not usually trained in the art of editing a novel to fit the marketplace as defined by a traditional publishing company. This gap often shows in the early novels of a self-published author. It did for me. Having trained editorial input changed my world.

That said, I have read some traditionally published novels with my mouth agape. How such works ever found a place on the shelves of major bookstores eludes me. In fairness, I have also read some self-published books that drew the same reaction. Ironically, both categories of those uninspiring novels, both the traditionally published and the self-published, had acquired a readership.

All hail the power of marketing. (But that’s a topic for another day.)

Traditional publishing does not spare the world from unfortunate novels any more than self-published novels are guaranteed to be unfortunate. But the method of publishing a book doesn’t alter the shared reality of editing that book.

Words get cut. Scenes are cast out from the pages upon which they were born. Chapters are ruthlessly ripped from the storyline and from the very lives of the characters. (Yes, I’m a serious reader. Yes, characters are alive to me. No, I don’t need therapy.) Should those pages, scenes, and chapters be repurposed, or be ignored?

The response to the question on Twitter was a blow-out:

Never let anyone see the words, scenes, and chapters you cut from a manuscript: 2 votes

Find a way to repurpose the deleted material and get it in front of readers: everyone else

As mentioned above, it is now a day after the question was asked. Authors are still tweeting on the subject, sharing ideas about what to do with good material intentionally cut from a manuscript. Isn’t that wonderful?

Here are more reactions from authors. I hope you’ll add yours, too!

 

 

Do you share your manuscript “outtakes” with your readers? Why or why not?

 

 

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