The hardest cut of all…

This month’s topic is about deleted scenes. I thought about sharing one. Heaven knows I’ve had more than my share of scenes I’ve cut through the years. Instead, I’m going one better. I’m not going to talk about scenes I’ve deleted.

I’m going to tell you how I deleted an entire book. edit3

Authors—at least dedicated authors—are constantly evolving. I learned just how much a few years ago.

I started writing my first book in the autumn of 2005 and completed it in the spring of 2006. The manuscript weighed in at a hefty 145K words, and I, of course, thought it was amazing. As I’ve shared with y’all before, the first person I asked to take a look at it was my father-in-law, a published author and former English professor. His critique was brutal, and I thank him for that every day. I learned an amazing amount about writing in general and more specifically about how to improve and grow. By the time I was done with the revisions he’d suggested, the story was down to 125K—and I imagine a good 15K of those “lost” words were overuses of words such as “that” and “just,” the slicing of unnecessary adverbs, and tightening of narrative.

edit2After revisions, I put that first book aside, considering it my learning curve. Besides, I had a slew of other great ideas for books, and I was addicted to writing by that point. So I was off and running. My fifth book, Turning Thirty-Twelve, was my first published story, and I did eventually publish books two, three, and four.

But what about that first book?

After my fourth Damaged Heroes story was released, I had quite a few reader requests to continue the series. Oddly enough, the first book fit it perfectly, probably because a lot of future characters were incubated in my mind when I was writing that story. So I decided to give it a look to see exactly how much editing it might need to even consider publishing it. I was in for a huge shock.

My writing had evolved—improved—A LOT. As I read through the manuscript, I slowly came to realize that trying to edit it would probably take longer and be far more agonizing than simply writing it from scratch. I grabbed a legal pad, scrolled through the story, and made a rough outline of the plot just to keep things fresh in my mind, then I made the hardest cut of all…

I deleted the entire manuscript. And after I stopped weeping, I began to write it again.edit1

Three months later, I had a tight 95K manuscript that was a testament to the changes I’d gone through thanks to my father-in-law, my mentor, and my critique partners. Their influence can be seen on every page, in every paragraph. The book was released as Twist of Fate in 2011—six years after it first formed in my mind.

What cuts have been the hardest for you to make? And more importantly—were they worth it?

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“Kathryn West has it all… too bad she doesn’t really exist…”

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