Friday, January 6, 2012


One ornament broke this year. Maybe a record. A snowman left without a head. It makes for a good picture and a great symbol of the pain-after-Christmas blues and one of the worst realizations that comes during my edits. For me, tearing down Christmas (or the remnants of the celebration) is like pulling out a beloved chapter from my book after so many drafts. I’ve realized those lovely twenty pages are not necessary to the plotline.

Christmas season is when the chapter emerges and grows, takes better shape and gets cut and paste into the rest of the book. The ornaments added, friends seen after a long time. I love it. It's pretty. It's festive and brilliant.

But Christmas is crazy. Too busy. So many emotions associated with soldered memories. Rushing about getting ready for parties: cleaning, cooking, and decorating. Essentially it is the equivalent of writing the book. And when it's all over, the worst part comes: tearing it all down and stuffing it under the crawl space. For the book, editing and letting it simmer.

But the infatuation with the words, like the Christmas decor, must go. It crowds the living room. It crowds and waters down the book. It must go. Snip snip, into the dump folder.

What does removing a precious chapter from your work-in-progress feel like to you?


  1. Great blog post, Karen. :) And I like the analogy.

    Well, when I remove large chunks from a manuscript, I often will paste them in a new document and put them in a folder called "deleted scenes." The analogy for this might be hoarding, lol. ;) It makes me feel better to know it's still around. I have some that I plan to post on my blog at some point. Usually extraneous pace-hindering stuff, but kind of fun to look back on after the book is published. Readers might like to see what got cut.

  2. Like Karen Duvall, I kept what I cut. It was painful, but it felt right at the time and more right with each edit.

    The cut chapter did move the story along, but it didn't allow the reader to fill in simple blanks. It seems better that I trust my readers to use their imagination about how a certain poison was planted. (There are clues.)

    Of course I wonder what you cut Karen A-L. I'm sure there was some good stuff...maybe to be used elsewhere.

  3. Karen, loved your post. How true that there is pain in cutting/cleaning up after a joyful romp. Fortunately, after the cutting comes a feeling of virtue: you disciplined yourself to do what you had to do. All is well, better than before. Congratulations, and happy manuscript-streamlining to us all in 2012!

    Stormy P

  4. Nice analogy! I just took down our Christmas decoration yesterday and though I'm not particularly sentimental, I felt a little sad it was over. Likewise, I decided I need to cut a really cool thing from my WIP because it just doesn't fit. But it was so cool and suggested by Stormy P. Oh well, clearing out the old makes room for the new and improved.

  5. No pain--no gain!

    Great analogy, Inky! Love the Christmas season, myself! Taking things down is always a little sad...but cutting pages? I wouldn't call it "sad," and like already mentioned, I do copy stuff to other "not used" files...just in case. Perhaps "disappointed" best describes how I feel. I don't like wasted effort...but also understand the whole "writing process woo-hoo" and soforth. And I have cut some pretty cool scenes over the years across mss. It "sucks" that those words that created some pretty cool imagery won't, now, "be seen." In so far as THAT goes! I mean, I'm still trying to get ANY of my mss seen! :-p

  6. Killing those darlings is so painful! As others have mentioned in their comments, I often save that darling text, though I'm not exactly sure why since I doubt I can use it. But then again, I've saved broken tree ornaments, too. Nice post!

  7. "Cut the fat." Funny, that's my new year's resolution - for my body as well as my writing. How does it feel? Since my writings are as full of glorious excess as my bod, getting rid of it is a bugger! Yeah, I know deleting the extras (chapters or pounds) makes for a better product, but that doesn't mean I have to like it! (Uh...Is that a sugar cookie ornament, by the way? ...You didn't pitch it, did you?)