Winged with Death - Virtual Tour
I was struck by something Elizabeth Baines said the other day. When speaking about the writing process she said, always be prepared to put back things you've cut.
This is something I've never thought about before. I've cut lots of passages, sometimes whole chapters from my own manuscripts. During the editing stage I've removed thematic elements from a novel, and from time to time, single characters or families, including all references to them made by other voices in the narrative. Obliterated them.
When you cut something from a narrative you don't expect to have to put it back. You imagine you have made an irrevocable decision. For some reason the narrative is flawed, slowed, obscured by this passage, so the passage has to be cut.
But I have, in the past, replaced cut sections of a novel. I didn't learn Elizabeth's lesson to always be prepared to put back things you've cut, but, of course, I'm not going to forget it now. It's a good thing to remember.
I was prepared to do it in the instance, because a novel is a huge project and one of the things that is very difficult about a huge project is managing to keep it all in your head at the same time. It is likely that you will be doing some quite close work during the editing stage and your concentration, of necessity is focussed on one or more aspects of the narrative that for some reason is unsatisfactory. This is the most likely stage when something will be cut. And the cut takes place because it would seem to solve a problem.
Later, however, sometimes quite a short time later, I may easily discover that the cut has created a bigger problem than the one it solved, and in fact it would have been better not to cut but to trim a little, or to shift emphasis.
That's why a cut is only ever done with half a heart. A passage is removed from the narrative, but, in my case at least, never burned or buried or shredded. It's just dumped in folder labelled 'cuts'. And left there to languish, sometimes for ever.
As we've seen, these cuts sometimes make a comeback, they're reinstated, they were falsely accused. In the past I've thought that they may be incorporated elsewhere, into another novel, into a short story, etc. etc. But this is rarely the case. Because they have been been created as part of a bespoke project, they don't fit elsewhere, they always stick out as if they were of a slightly different hue, or like an overcoat made specifically for a man with short arms, they always appear a little odd out of context.
Sometimes I find a use for them in my blog, This works because they can often stand alone, and readers have commented, indicating that these out-takes seem to have an internal integrity. It is often not necessary to include reference to where they came from or why they are orphaned in the world. They have a way of letting us know.