The unkindest cut of all

Posted on August 30, 2013

I knew it was coming. Really, I’d suspected it all along. But nothing ever fully prepares you for the moment when you take your complete manuscript and rip a big 13,000-word chunk out of it.


From the outlining stage onward, part two of THROUGH A MIRROR INFINITE had been … not quite as solid as the rest. It had its moments; it served a purpose. But the same energy that flows through the other sections went slack there.

When I finally wrote the book, I knew repairing part two was going to be one of my biggest challenges. I radically changed several aspects of it, adding more for certain characters to do, and making sure an escape scene was much more credible than the stuff in the outline. It was important to maintain all the stuff in that section that did work (most particularly a tense scene between Marguerite and Paul in a long, forbidding hallway, and an even tenser one between Marguerite and Theo in an even more forbidding jail), but I was able to do that and still make part two so, so much better.

But when I got my editorial notes, I remembered one of the great truisms of creative work, one we can never, ever afford to forget: Just because something’s getting better doesn’t mean it’s actually getting good. 

My editor made the radical suggestion of cutting part two. ALL OF IT. After a few moments spent hyperventilating, I was able to hold a paper bag to my face and think over what she’d said. Cutting that section would cost me those great scenes … but it would also remove the main aspect of TAMI that wasn’t coming together the way we needed it to. There is a fair bit of story movement that happens in part two; however, both my editor and I wanted to expand both part one and part three (they rock, y’all). Cutting part two meant I could expand those parts of the story, and work in the necessary plot elements in the process.

Did it make cutting part two easy? No. Doing the copy-paste-cut* today about killed me. But I knew it was the right thing to do. Now TAMI is temporarily a chunk shorter, and missing one of the biggest reveals the story has to offer. And I get the sheer pleasure of writing that reveal again, in a whole new setting … one that will do justice to the story overall.

My heart aches thinking of the lost jail scene, though.

… until we turn it into a shiny novella for you guys, that is. 🙂


*(ALWAYS paste before cutting. I remember the early days of word processors, where computers sometimes were like, what text did you mean? I didn’t see any text. So I make sure of things.) 

2 Responses to “The unkindest cut of all”

  1. Tenisha

    When you cut a part from your story do you save it somewhere else so you can go back and read over it if you want to?

    • claudia

      Sometimes, sometimes not. It depends on whether I’m cutting it because I absolutely must (like here), in which case I do save it. However, there are always those other cuts, the ones where you go, “So, in this paragraph, what was I thinking, exactly? Because I have NO IDEA.” When I take something out because it’s just plain not good, I let it go.