Control, Alt, Delete…

I deleted 4k yesterday. Yep, after a whole day sweating over all those words, I decided that there was a reason I was sweating over them and that reason was because they were crap. Honestly, you’d think I would know this stuff by now but no, after two years of short category discipline, I still have periods where I’m forcing my characters to do stuff they wouldn’t.

And you know what? I had an inkling I was doing something that wasn’t quite right and yet I pushed on. Complained to Dr Jax later that night, that I felt I was forcing them to have a conversation they didn’t want to have. And he said, “Why are you doing that? What do they want to do?” My rebuttal to this was that I knew perfectly well what my characters wanted to do but they couldn’t because…because…well, they’d just have another love scene and shouldn’t they be getting further along with stuff by now? Dr Jax’s reply was ‘So? Eventually they’ll have to stop doing what they’re doing and that’s when the conflict happens.’.

Argh! Maybe I should get my husband to write these things instead… Anyway, the wretched man was right. I was trying to get my h&h to have a conversation that they shouldn’t have been having – they’ve only known each other two days, waaaaay too early to be sharing stuff about their dead/hideous parents! My intention was to further their conflict without a love scene because I’ve been trying to avoid the whole ‘sex without emotion’ trap. But of course, love scenes CAN forward the conflict and up the tension so why didn’t I just do that in the first place??

I have no idea. But after deleting the 4k and starting again with the love scene, it was MUCH better. Would you believe my ‘deleted scenes’ folder is now nearly as long as my actual ms??

So, what’s your biggest deletion? Bet you can’t top mine – this ms is on its third complete rewrite. 😉

26 thoughts on “Control, Alt, Delete…”

  1. Jackie,

    Guillermo’s List, which you’ve read a very small portion of is in its third rewrite, approx. 90K each. But, I feel the story is 10x better than before.

    And, my ‘extra’ file is always almost 1:1 with my story. Ugh.

    You’re doing the right thing.

    Abbi 🙂

  2. Abbi – oh, thank god, I thought I was the only one who was willing to rewrite mss over and over! That’s exactly it, I feel my story is SO much better than the first time I wrote it and am learning more every go around.
    Hopefully it’ll turn out to be the right thing. Definitely NOT rewriting it a fourth time!

  3. I feel your pain. My “extracts” file inevitably mutate to series I, II, then III. Don’t worry, I think we’re all learning. And I second what Abbi says, you’re definitely doing the right thing. Sometimes, the characters know best.

  4. Jackie, I so needed this post today! I have a novella I’ve ignored for a month (even with the deadline approaching) and I think I knew deep down it was because I’ve taken a wrong turn. Not a huge one, but one that will still involve some cutting. I’m used to rewriting – the second half of my next story coming out from TWRP had to be rewritten because it felt off to me. My Blaze full that at’s HQ right now had to be rewritten, basically from scratch, three times. So I think we’re tied for biggest rewrites. ;D

    That single experience taught me more than writing all my other stories put together, but still, it hurts. It’s tough. But I believe no word is wasted and being able to recognize when you’ve jumped the track is an important skill for a writer. Best of luck in your rewrites. 🙂

  5. Hetal – yeah, it was definitely right to delete it. I have a deleted scenes type of file for each ms. Sometimes that file is even longer than the ms itself!

    Cari – glad to help! And very glad I’m not alone in rewrite hell. I have to say, I’m always pleased I’ve rewritten because the story is always better and I learn so much in doing so. As you say, nothing is wasted. Lesson is to go with your gut huh?

  6. Hey Jackie,

    Deleting is a gutsy move. Congratulations. At the end of the day, you’re still thinking about what’s best for your ms and not letting your ego get in the way.

    I’m waiting to hear back on a full ms and guess what…? While drumming my fingers, I went ahead and revised – deleted an entire scene from the end because it smacked of ‘plot device’. Good or bad call? Don’t know but I do feel it now has a more credible flow. if only I’d thought of it earlier… 😉

  7. The words are our babies that’s the problem! lol. You don’t want to delete them, you want to make them work, you CAN make them work if you just sit there long enough… Sadly, sometimes, that’s delusion speaking 😛

  8. Veronica – wtg on the full!! Crossing fingers for you. Well, you may get revisions in which case, you’ll have pre-empted them! How long have you been waiting?
    Yeah, I have no qualms when it comes to deleting. Not these days anyway!

    Lacey – if words were my babies I’d be a terrible mother! I’ve learned to get rid of them when necessary – which is most of the time. I think for me rewriting is much easier. It’s when I try to keep stuff that it all turns to custard. 🙂

  9. oh Jackie – your posts (and Dr Jax’) are always SOOOOOOOOOOO helpful. I think sometimes we are trying to stick to a formula when there isn’t one! Each couple of characters bring a totally new set of rules!!!

  10. Thanks for the crossed fingers. I think I need to synchronise myself better and get the ms spot on/right before submitting! Hindsight can be a bit of a knee-jerk nuisance.

    Going on 21 wks, turning into the proverbial long gestation period but at least I’m enjoying tackling other stories – that is, when I’m not fiddling with the submitted one or seeking inspiration from Jackie Ashenden’s blog


  11. Rach – you’re so right hun! I’m trying to get into the conflict but for these two, it’s not about that yet. They’re different in that their conflict stuff is going to come quite late in the piece. I foresee in a lot of cutting in that case.

    Veronica – I’m the same. I sub something and then, weeks later, think hmm…I could have done that better. Then again, with every one, I DO think I’ve got it right. Until the ed says no and in which case that’s something else I’ve needed to learn. Hard work huh?
    21 weeks is ages. Have you queried? I would. Is this for Presents/Modern? Don’t know if there’s much inspiration here. Definitely a lot of whining. 😉

  12. Jackie, you know my story. I consider myself Queen of the Revisions…LOL. The Sheikh was my biggest mess by far. I wrote it, rewrote it, and rewrote it again. And it is three completely different books with the same (very) basic premise and character names. :-/

    Also, I rewrote A Mistake, A Prince and a Pregnancy, and then also, did three round of revs on His Virgin Acquisition (complete with a half rewrite! Yay!!!)

    You are not alone.

    (also, Abbi, dear heavens 90K three times?? I just died for you a little bit)

  13. Maisey – you’re the queen of successful revisions! And with each one you learn heaps eh? I just hope my rewrite is as successful as yours. Yeah, 90k. Abbi is star.

  14. Good for you Jackie, spotting the problem and then dealing with it…

    Once you’ve invested time and effort in writing a scene it’s painful to cut them. And I’m not even going to mention the whole Elvis Impersonator Vegas Wedding in my third book which I had to cut because it sent my characters off in completely the wrong direction… All right I did mention it, but that’s because it still hurts to think about that scene (it really was fab – my Hawaiian clad Elvis even sang Love me Tender at the end of the ceremony). See it still hurts.

    But boy did I feel like a weight had been lifted off my characters (and me) once I’d done the dirty deed?

    I have an ‘outtake’ file for every book I write that usually ends up being as long as the book… That said, I very rarely dip into it – once I’ve slashed those words from the ms they stay slashed, which means I was absolutely right to cut them… And I’ll bet you don’t use yours either.

  15. Oh I delete ALL the time. I know I’ve told you my latest – about 10K, but I have now added another 4 and am over again. Will need to delete at least another 2-3K by end of week. ouch.

  16. Jackie, my first MS (thankfully a novella) underwent around 4 complete rewrites that I have ultimately shelved. It has a totally new premise and well, when I started with chap 1 – brand new.. only to close that file and re-write another brand new chap 1.. Uh ! That’s probably the longest I have dallied over a MS..

    The others have a deleted scene file of minimum 1:1 (cos I have this habit of revising as I write) and versions runs into two digits.. especially I also plot as I write..

    I guess anyone looking at my folders would go crazy, but that’s me 😉 Guess we are learning something new each day..

  17. Heidi – you know, I’ve heard you mention the Elvis impersonator before and I gotta say, it sounds SO cool!! No wonder you found it hard cutting it. Yeah, like you, once I’d got rid of that wordage it felt so much freer to write. Honestly, I can’t believe I spent all day forcing them to do this when I KNEW it was wrong.
    Anyway, yep, stuff in my outtakes folder stays outtaken too. Sometimes I might take a sentence here and there that works in the new bit but that’s it.

    Janette – you’re a star with your ms. You’ll get there m’dear.

    Ju – that’s right, we are learning. Well, I did have a previous story I rewrote three times but when the partial was rejected I shelved it completely. Sometimes it’s best to move on. Haven’t completely given up on the idea mind you. 😉

  18. No, probably can’t top yours, but I’m about to delete the second half of a 55k ms and I’m absolutely terrified! But if you can do it and live to tell the tale, then I have no excuses, eh?

  19. To query or not to query…
    Can’t bring myself to do it.

    The waiting is actually giving me some ‘quality’ time with my next ms (Presents) and after several reads I’ve managed to tune in to a jagged bit that may need tweaking. I remember cutting huge chunks out of this one too – superfluous stuff that either reiterated, over clarified or stagnated by slowing things down.

    When in doubt, I now ask myself to provide ten good reasons why something that doesn’t quite do what it’s meant to do, should stay – a one way ticket to deleting as it’s easier than going on the defensive (even if I risk becoming too sang-froid and going on a rampage instead).


  20. Hi,

    In a romantic thriller you can’t have characters (metaphorically) hanging around on street corners for too long, (drawn out tension) not if by “cutting a chapter” you can summarise the street corner incident in a few words and send the characters speeding on to next high drama scene.

    So, chapter went!

    Oh god, did that hurt, and the macho male character wasn’t any too pleased about the director’s decision, either!


  21. Jackie,

    I have to say that I have never deleted anything near that amount. I am also ashamed to say that I am so terrified of losing possible great lines that when I have deleted (a larger section), I have copied and pasted it into a “holding” document – for later – maybe!! Sad isn’t it? However, it sounds like you know what you are doing and your reasons for doing it make perfect sense so I wish you well.

  22. Maya – yeah, it’s scary. But you’ll find you’ve got a much better story on your hands. It’s worth it, believe me. Especially when you get that magic Call, which I’m sure you will!

    Veronica – Ah Presents, thought so. Had an odd thought it might have been Desire… Anyway, I would query. Do it! You have nothing to lose but the not knowing. 🙂 Like your 10 reasons btw. I should do that too.

    Francine – that’s so true. Jump cut huh? Your poor hero! I hope you gave him some good stuff to make up for it. 😉

    Wendy – I admit to creating whole scenes just to have that one great line. And you know what? I’ve ALWAYS had to cut the scenes because they didn’t do anything but showcase that line. Yep, I do the same thing, have all the good stuff in my outtakes/deleted scenes document. I do pillage from it from time to time or use lines for other mss. Nothing is wasted.

  23. I have entire novels in my deleted scenes file. My last one was re-written countless times over four years – just couldn’t let it go. What I ended up with was vastly different to the book I started – and I’m not sure I managed any improvements.

    Glad you’re back on track – keep up the good work.


  24. Gosh, it’s so hard as writers to delete whole expanses of words. Every single word we write is precious, at least that’s how I feel LOL! I edit as I go through my first draft A LOT. Really, you have no idea how long it takes :). As such, I don’t seem to delete big chunks but will take small bits out entirely. When I went through my edits for my first book, the editor wanted me to remove a secondary character entirely. I had to rewrite an entire scene (one I liked) so that it still worked less one person, but I kept it. It went to my ‘use for later’ file. It’s snippets of dialogue, situations/scenarios, descriptive paragraphs, etc. A whole bunch of stuff that doesn’t make it into the final ms. I really did think it was going to be a black hole and none of those words would ever be heard of or seen again. However, I have found myself going back to the file occasionally and using some of it!

  25. Sally – cheers for that! Will have to go check it out!

    Kaily – yes, I too use bits and pieces from my deleted scenes folder. But I don’t edit as I go usually, not for a first draft. I have to get it down fast otherwise I get bogged down. Hence me having to delete 4k because fast doesn’t mean good a lot of the time!

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