Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Cutting Room Floor

So last night I finished revisions of "So Honest A Man" and in a few days I'll tidy things up and send the new version off to my agent to see what he says. Hopefully he'll say "Wow!"

I ended up cutting all of my protagonist's childhood from the book, because it was nothing but setting and backstory. Some of it wasn't bad writing, but the book is better without it. Here's a snippet of snipped prose:

In the warm months I ran the length of Wittenberg’s streets, in the tall shadows of newly built marble counting houses that shouldered their way into lots between the older step-gabled brick buildings. Barefoot and clothed in whatever stray patches of rough cloth my mother had sewn together into breeches, I got into what harmless private mischief I could. In an alley behind a carpenter’s shop where I meant to collect wood scraps and stray ends of boards, I once ran foul of a gang of older boys who had cornered a lad from one of the city’s few Jewish families.

“Foreigner,” the older boys spat, shoving the little Jew down into the mud.

“I am no foreigner,” the frightened boy protested. “I was born in Wittenberg, as were you.”

“Jew,” they accused, beating on him with their fists. “We should burn you and yours at the stake!”

The boy saw me and called out for help. I took a step toward him. Some of the older youths came forward.

“What ho,” they said. “A little Dankser.”

“Nay,” I answered. “I am German.”

“Jew!” they threatened.

“Nay, I am Catholic,” I said confidently.

“Papist!” the boys cried, and fell upon me. When I arrived home hours later, bloody, naked and with no armload of kindling, my father gave me a few blows when I told him what had happened, and that I had fought back.

“A man fights not,” he said. “No matter what is done to him.”


  1. Wow, that passage is powerful, Scott. I always hate to see good stuff cut, but sometimes it just doesn't work for the story. Thank for sharing this, and congrats on finishing your edits!

  2. Congrats!

    As for the cut stuff, save and use later. I always save my 'omitted sections' because I never know when, or what story, that might one day play a part. It's some great writing and the world shouldn't be deprived . . . at least not permanently.


  3. Michelle: Thanks. I'd probably change a few things here and there in this passage, so I've saved some work by just cutting it! I can't believe how relieved I am to have finished revisions. Weight of the world, I tell you.

    Scott: I don't save stuff for later, unless I think I'll use it in the same piece again. I tell myself that if I wrote well once, I can write well again in the future. It's also healthy for me to let go of projects completely when I've finished them, including all the spare parts left behind.

  4. That's just great. It's always a comfort seeing what you call bad writing being better than my attempts. Gee thanks Scott, and your little eels too.

    I can't wait for my signed first edition to arrive in the mail.

    Concerning the diologue, try this;

    "Foreigner," the older boy spat, shoving the little Jew down into the mud.

    "I am no foreigner, I'm a vampire!"

  5. That's a moving scene. I think I'm going to enjoy reading your book when it's done. I've cut out most of my backstory stuff too. I've discovered that it doesn't help the story I'm telling. It only helped me know the characters better. Congrats on finishing the revisions. I hope the agent says wow too. "crosses fingers for you*

  6. Charlie: Wow, vampires! Neat! Now I can use the scene again. Thanks!

    Lois: I hope you love the book, whenever it finds its way to daylight. I hope a lot of people love the book. I know I do.

    You're right about backstory helping us know the characters better. I think it's important that we write it out, even if we cut it from the final version. Keep those fingers crossed!

  7. You're welcome. You know how useful I try to be.