----snip----To the cutting room floor. (a.k.a. Advice on Editing) (Concrit Friendly)

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction and Writing Resource' started by leia_naberrie, May 17, 2006.

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  1. leia_naberrie

    leia_naberrie Jedi Master star 4

    Sep 10, 2002
    A few weeks ago I wrote 3 chapters of a story that were 3 chapters away from happening. Stayed up all night - did the dual-burning candle thing. I remember how excited and accomplished I felt the next morning. Then a few weeks later, when I finally got round to completing those 2 in between chapters, I suddenly realized that those wonderful 3 chapters I had already written - as wonderful as they were and as excited and accomplished they made me - did not belong to the story.


    Ever had your tooth pulled without anesthesia? Believe me, it didn't hurt as much as deleting those chapters. (You see - I had to delete them. If they had stayed on my hard disk, they would have haunted me). I felt like I had murdered my babies. Which, in a sense, I had. :( So I throw the question to the audience - how do you feel when you realize that that perfect chapter isn't part of the story you tell? When you realize that those lines of repartee belong to another setting? Or the finer details of one of your best-written duels are actually distractions to the overall plot? When do you know how to cut? How do you cut without bleeding to death? Do you bleed at all? Or do you not cut but leave the gratuitous chapter/dialogue/action sequence in even though you know it's more of a cancer than a boon to the story?

    edit 6/6/06 :eek:

    This thread is concrit friendly. That means you can post an excerpt you feel needs editing and ask other participants for advice. Now to clarify the terms excerpt and concrit, I will borrow from ophelia's very clear definitions in the "Concrit Index" thread.

    Excerpt: An Excerpt is an unposted draft of a story, not a work that has already been posted on the story boards, or that the author considers to be in its final state. (Exceptions would be when an author had to post something they weren't quite happy with because of a deadline, or when a fic had a surprising and disappointing reception, and the author wants to know what might have gone wrong.) The major goal of a workshop is to prevent disappointing reader responses by suggesting revisions before a story is finished. Because the focus is on problem-solving, the excerpt ought to be a "rough spot" that the author wants to work on--not a part the author really likes as it is, and has posted in a misguided attempt to gain new readers or to get positive feedback outside their story thread. For lack of a better metaphor, a workshop excerpt would not be the teaser/trailer GL would show a test audience in advance of a film release. It would be the rough cut he'd drag Stephen Spielberg in to look at, and say, "Steve, I hate it. Why does this suck so much?!" Answer: "George, it's Obi-Wan's beard. It's gotta go." :p

    Note: On this thread, links and titles of excerpts are not allowed. If you want to post an "exception" (as described above as an already completed work), please PM me.

    Concrit: "Concrit" is an abbreviation for "constructive criticism," or what we in fan fiction refer to as "beta-reading". In this thread, if you post an excerpt that you want people to take a look at, let you know if it's still relevant to your story or needs to be Snipped, then the other thread posters are permitted to give their respectfully worded but honest opinions about that, as well as where the post needs Snipping and what needs to be pasted in.

    Finally, this is a workshop thread i.e concrit-friendly. Posting an excerpt on this thread means that you expect and demand concrit. Not every writer is rightfully interested in this and there are other ways of participating in this thread e.g. horror stories sharing. DO NOT post an excerpt if you are not willing to accept concrit on it.

  2. ZaraValinor

    ZaraValinor Jedi Grand Master star 4

    May 31, 2002
    It always pains me at first, but I never delete them, because they may become an inspiration piece for another story I have in mind or I just like reading them and bask in my wonderfulness :p. But it as rather difficult not to include them in the story I'm currently writing.

    It could be pulitzer material but not for the story. It's crushing.
  3. Golden_Jedi

    Golden_Jedi Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Jun 10, 2005
    It's hard, very hard. Once I had the ending written, which was the whole point of the story and then I wrote this funny, sexy, poignant middle chapter which I had to cut and deform to fit with the rest. :_| I reused part of it later in the story, but it was not the same. I still have the original middle chapter pasted at the end of the story. I even considered to offer it as a bonus after the story was finished! :p Hey, if GL can do it, why not me?
  4. Valley_Lord

    Valley_Lord Jedi Master star 4

    Dec 2, 2005
    I've found that editing my work has been counterproductive. People read the less edited stuff I do than the edited to death works.
  5. Luna_Nightshade

    Luna_Nightshade Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Jan 25, 2006
    I don't actually delete anything immediately. Everything I write gets used, in one way or another. If something does not fit where it should, it instead gets used as a template, or something to lay over what I plan to actually write. Often rereading it and shifting things around helps me get the mood I want, and parts of the actual writing can be salvaged. After I've taken what I can from it, it gets deleted, yes. With much fanfare and mourning and so forth. But not until it has been absolutely run through.

    EDIT: I apparently can't spell today.
  6. DarthIshtar

    DarthIshtar Chosen One star 9

    Mar 26, 2001
    I go with instinct. If it doesn't make you feel right, don't leave it in. I once removed 5,000 words from a story because it did not make sense to me any more.
  7. Healer_Leona

    Healer_Leona Squirrel Wrangler of Fun & Games star 9 Staff Member Manager

    Jul 7, 2000
    Ish is right. You've got to go with your own vision of the story and if it doesn't feel right, it's got to go, though I'd never delete it.

    I've got numerous snippets on WORD. They may never amount to anything, but I tend to harod everything I've written. [face_blush]
  8. WyoJedi

    WyoJedi Jedi Youngling star 4

    Nov 7, 2005
    I guess I'm the odd man out here... If I'm writing something and it doesn't fit, I get rid of it. Kit and kaboodle. If I feel that it has no bearing on the story at hand then it's gone. Of course that's just my way... I'm a heartless editor.

  9. Abby

    Abby Jedi Master star 4

    Jan 7, 2004
    I often "write ahead", when I have an idea for a scene that may come later and I don't want it to disappear before I get to that part of the story. However, as most of us know, many times a story can change from its original path and then that prized little snippet/chapter/whatever becomes obsolete.

    However, if I'm particularly proud of some aspect of that piece I've prewritten, while I won't include it in the story, I will keep it around. The idea that made me write it may be enough for a different story, or something, that I can use later. Or, if possible, I may be able to re-work it to make it fit, if the idea behind it is still pertinent.

  10. JadeSolo

    JadeSolo Manager Emeritus star 6 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Sep 20, 2002
    I keep a couple versions in one file. If it's more than one post long, sometimes two Chapter 4s will go by as I'm scrolling through. I like the alternate versions too much to let them go. :p And it's not like they really change the story. What happened just wasn't important enough to talk about.

    But then there are times, especially with vigs, where I'm much like Wyo. Just chop it and move on. If I'm not fretting about it a couple hours later, it didn't mean that much to me.
  11. Persephone_Kore

    Persephone_Kore Jedi Master star 4

    Jan 19, 2006
    What I figure is that if I really loved it, then even if it doesn't belong in the story I originally wrote it for, it will probably end up belonging somewhere else. Or at least I can keep it around to grin over in private -- I have plenty of stuff that was never meant to be seen by more than one or two people. So if there's something seriously wrong, or I'm just tweaking, I'll probably delete and think little more of it; if it's a substantial amount of text, moderately self-supporting, and doesn't belong in a specific story, I'm more likely to keep it and do something else with it.

    On the other hand, sometimes I will put things into fanfics that are probably not necessary but are nonetheless fun. Too much fuss over what's "necessary" and I wouldn't write at all. ;)
  12. MariahJade2

    MariahJade2 Former Fan Fiction Archive Editor star 5 VIP

    Mar 18, 2001
    Oh, I've edited out a lot of things but I never throw them away. You just never know how something can be useful someplace else or give you an idea later. I'm like Leona, I hoard. :p
  13. Katana_Geldar

    Katana_Geldar Jedi Grand Master star 8

    Mar 3, 2003
    I normally paste scenes that I take out in a doc I call 'deleted scenes'.

    Editing is hard but is has to be done. Sometimes is a quetsion of pacing, I might need to furry up the story, sometimes its of character where the scene I wrote is not suited to the characters and how they develop, sometimes I need to move the scene later and that means it has to be re-written.
    It's time like this I feel like George in the edit room.
  14. Juliet316

    Juliet316 Chosen One star 10

    Apr 27, 2005
    I write ahead too. It has helped shape a lot of my fics giving me a place to aim for. Something that I know I've got to go too. I've been lucky that when the time comes for those scenes, I haven't had to change or edit those original scenes a lot. For the most part those original story goals more or less stay the same scene that I've written and not some rewritten stranger.

    Another editing problem I've found is placing things in stories. I ran in this today in my brain with one fic where I realized a chapter I had was better served for much later in the story and moving up a major reveal earlier than I had originally planned. It may work out for the best but it's frustrating sometimes when chapter placement changes on you.
  15. poor yorick

    poor yorick Ex-Mod star 6 VIP - Former Mod/RSA VIP - Game Host

    Jun 25, 2002
    For most stories, if something seems off in re-reading, I'll pull it and stick it in a text file (often unsaved, because I like to live dangerously) :p and just minimize it and keep it parked in my task bar for a few days. If 3 days or so go by and that bit isn't crying to go back into the story, I just delete the text file. I do usually re-read it--and virtually never find anything brilliant worth saving. (And if I do, it usually goes back in the story somewhere.)

    When I was writing "Spirit Warriors of Angharad," however, which took 14 months to finish and ran over 300,000 words, I really had to watch the continuity issue, so I kept *everything.* All the deleted snippets were kept organized in separate sub-folders with the chapter numbers on them, and I archived each snippet by the date it was written. (For some reason, it's easiest for me to think, "Ooh, I put that early on in chapter 2," rather than, "Wait, yeah--that was the bit where Obi-Wan had the conversation with the villager that turned out to be pointless.") I kept everything because the story is at least supposed to be interlocked pretty tightly, and so a minor continuity screwup in chapter 2 could cause major plot problems in chapter 12. If I still had the original lying around, I could just quickly whip out the important bit I'd mistakenly deleted, and slap it back in place.

    I'm only that obsessive with novels, however. And since I've sworn never to write another fanfic novel again as long as I live, :p this should not be a significant problem for me anymore.
  16. geo3

    geo3 Jedi Master star 4

    Sep 29, 2002
    I save stuff. Even if it doesn't work with what I'm writing now, if it has any kind of useful shape on the page, I save it in a file called "Ideas and Edits."

    Once in a while I sort of remember something that might be in that file and I go back to look at it. Over the course of nearly three novels and a few shorter pieces, the "Ideas and Edits" file has grown smaller and smaller because I invariably find a use for such already-written pieces in some form or other. Odd scenes have become the basis for chapters. Random conversations get re-written around their core ideas and brought into whatever I'm working on... and so on.

    Either that, or there's always a new story to consider!
  17. Valairy Scot

    Valairy Scot Manager Emeritus star 6 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Sep 16, 2005
    I have multiple ways of saving stuff. I have a draft folder for when I make a dramatic revision of what I'm working (Story 1, Story1Alt, Story1Alt051806, whatever) so I can track changes. I also put stuff in the computer garbage can and then don't empty it "just in case."

    I cut and paste paragraphs and sentences that I hate to lose in one long ongoing word.doc named "plot bunnies and bits & pieces."

    I also cut them into a new doc, like I did last night while working on Tears of the Force. I took stuff I was discarding, threw in an interesting twist I thought of suddenly. I saved it as QuiKillsObi and played with it, and - the result got posted as Because I Love Him.

    I also write ahead - that is the stuff that makes me want to write, so I write it. Then I go back and fill in stuff. I have one story where my original beginning is something like 20 pages in, chapter 3. A Good Place to Die started out about 35 pages and is now 135 pages in 12 pt New Times Roman singlespaced, all because I started fleshing out what I wanted to write.

  18. leia_naberrie

    leia_naberrie Jedi Master star 4

    Sep 10, 2002
    Thanks for all the comments, everyone. I had to take a little time to study the useful learning points you all made. Everyone seems to have different approaches to editing - from hoarding them forever, to throwing them away with a second thought. :)

    I also noticed that most of you that snipped from longer stories (e.g. Luna_Nightshade, Abby, ophelia, geo3 etc), tended to find the snippets useful later on the story, or afterwards, as the core of a vignette or shorter story. As a writer of long and short stories, I think the idea of keeping a folder of snippets, so to speak, might be useful. Perhaps I need to rethink my former practice of throwing them away at once!

    Juliet316 made a very interesting comment about 'placing things in stories': how Chapter 2 suddenly seems to be better suited as the last chapter etc. That's a very valid discussion for an editing thread. I know from experience that this happens a lot when writing long stories (and is part of the reason why they end up a great deal longer than I planned ;) ). I assume B comes after A, only to realize that it makes more sense for C, D and then E (which I had never planned on writing!) to happen before a modified version of the original B occurs.

    When the outline changes, do you still stick to the plan? Or do you edit the original to allow the story to 'have its own life'?
  19. MsLanna

    MsLanna Jedi Master star 6

    Jul 8, 2005
    I usually strat with an idea that transforms into any odd scene from the story. One even ended up in chapter four.
    Then I go and write the beginning and the end, so I know where I'm going. Believe me, I'd get lost otherwise. I need a fixed point to steer me through the story.
    Anything that I write has to lead to that end, so writing whole chapters that suddenly fit no more has fortunately not happened to me yet. If the story want to go any other way then the end I planned I get out my fic-o-zappic and fry it until it behaves. More or less.;)

    Mostly I cut paragraphs or passagese that are fun and fine, but do nothing to actually further the story. They just hang in there, so ----snip-----
    It's hard to do, but for the quality of my story I'd sell my own grandmo.... Um.[face_blush]

    Usually I throw those pieces away because they wouldn not really fit in any other story anyway. I just get distracted easiy, write it all down and only realize i don't need half of it later. *shrugs*
  20. leia_naberrie

    leia_naberrie Jedi Master star 4

    Sep 10, 2002
    Woah that's harsh! [face_laugh] So I'm guessing you don't really let your story grow wings and fly away from the original idea?
  21. MsLanna

    MsLanna Jedi Master star 6

    Jul 8, 2005
    No I don't.[face_not_talking]
    Usually I have the whole of the story in my head before I set down the pen (or hit the keyes), so there is little danger of sudden changes. And I write the end fist of all, most times.
    If an idea insists on being developed I create another story for it, though.
    (Don't ask, it's plot bunny breeding heaven...;) )
  22. divapilot

    divapilot Force Ghost star 4

    Nov 30, 2005
    I'm gonna jump in because I love to talk about writing.

    I recently put up a story called "Greater Than The Sum of His Parts" on the Beyond boards. That story went through a MAJOR overhaul in that I eliminated not just a scene but an entire character. Sometimes it's a case where my story's too crowded, and someone has to go because it's distracting the reader from the main character and his/her conflict. This is especially important in shorter works.

    Another point I'd like to make is that I never toss writing away that has some glimmer to it. I wrote a 30-pager last year and came to the bitter realization that it didn't work. However, parts of it were pretty good. One scene wound up in my story "Ashes." So you never know. Saving your writing is like having a big trunk of goodies in the attic, and with a little alteration they can find a second life.
  23. leia_naberrie

    leia_naberrie Jedi Master star 4

    Sep 10, 2002
    Mmmm... [face_thinking] So instead of mutating Story A, you just write Stories A and[/b] B... [face_thinking]

    [face_idea] Actually, that's not a bad idea!

    JK Rowling's actually done this in many of the Harry Potter books. I think she eliminated Dean Thomas' whole side-story in one book, killed off Hermione Granger's cousin in another.

    More and more I'm beginning to think that that's true.

    So generally, it looks like the inclination is to stick to your original idea, and toss out what's unnecessary. Or at least toss into a safe place where it can be recycled?
  24. DarthBreezy

    DarthBreezy Force Ghost star 6

    Jun 4, 2002
    It kills me!!

    What's worse is when you realise that the chapter in question compleatly threw me out of the story and the only chance of salvation is going to be to pull a modified "Dallas"/Bobby Ewing... [face_worried]

    Ahh well...
  25. MsLanna

    MsLanna Jedi Master star 6

    Jul 8, 2005

    Oh yes, it is. Believe me it is.
    *looks at drawer full of 'b' story plans* [face_plain]

    And if you don't stick to your original ide, who is gonna write that story?:confused:
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