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Thursday, July 8, 2010

It's Been in the Family For Years

I've come to loath the phrase, "It's been in the family for years."

At some point in the celebrated history of The Family even the ugliest piece of kitsch becomes an heirloom. You can divorce a perfectly good spouse after twenty years of profitable marriage, but get rid of the humorous cow saucer Aunt Betsie bought at the Ohio State Fair in 1981? Heaven forfend!

For me, the bane of my de-cluttering life is a hideous crystal bowl handed down to the first bride of each generation. My MiL watched in smug horror as I opened the box at my bridal shower with a smug smile.

Of course she was smiling! She was getting rid of the stupid thing!

Unlucky, unwitting, me. I was the first bride of our generation and so I was cursed with the ugly crystal bowl with sad, squat designs that might be pears. I'm not sure. Maybe they were meant to be the mushrooms from Mario Brothers.

What I do know is that I can't get rid of the bowl.

You know what's worse than, "It's been in the family for years?"

"I can't cut that scene, it's been in since the beginning."

Come on, don't lie, you've heard this before. There's always the one person who insists to keep the dying clunker of a scene because it has sentimental value. As if sentimental attachment to badly written *insert adjective here* is going to sell your novel.

No. No it's not. Stop living in fantasy land.

This past week, it was me stuck in fantasy land.

I went to Twin O'Mine sobbing because Twisted Metal was B-R-O-K-E-N. Unfixable. Beyond repair. Call the cab, I'm picking up my toys and I want to go home.

I may have even stamped my foot.

The problem in my mind was that the scene I was building to kept vanishing in the distance. I couldn't manuver the characters into the situation I wanted without defying logic or breaking the story line. It was frustrating.

Amy gave me a cyber-pat on the head and told me to read back to where the story worked. I did. There is good writing here.

"Cut everything after that," she said.

I gaped at her. (Via internet of course. Amy lives Down Under. I'm in the Deep South, but not that Deep!) Cut? Had she actually said CUT? As in... reduce word count? Never! I'd rather... well, whinge first really.

I whinged, she gave me The Look. I cut the words.

5k gone in an instant. Magically transported to the slush pile of shredded drafts never to be viewed again. An entire planet, seven new characters, an apartment, and the promise of a meteorite all gone!

And TM is so much better!

Lesson Learned: There is no statute of limitations on cutting bad writing. If the scene doesn't fit, cut it out. It doesn't matter if it's the first scene you wrote or the last. Lose the dead weight.

I lost two weeks worth of hard labor. Writing those scenes was torture. Cutting them was painful. TM is flowing again, the characters are coming back to life. All the pain was worth the possibilities.

Should you want a pretty crystal bowl, they can be found HERE. Mario Brothers is trademarked, copyright, and courtesy to Nintendo. Picture found HERE. Angry shadow found HERE.


  1. my published writer friend (I think you know who I mean now) has said the exact same thing about going to where the story is still working well and cutting everything after. He says it's the best way to keep things flowing and on the right track.

  2. The beauty of the age we live in is we can cut any scene we want -- and keep in somewhere on our harddrives. That way, you can always go back and re-read, re-work, or find another home for the scene that just didn't fit.

    Nice post :]

  3. Lotus - I think I know who you are talking about ;o) It's excellent advice that's working for me!

    Lia- Can you imagine trying to write this all out by hand? *hugs my computer* I love having tech!