Director’s Cut

The director’s cut, a movie released several years after the original, giving us a look into scenes and story we missed when the film was in the theaters. Aliens, released in 1986, the director’s cut coming out in 2003 with roughly eighteen minutes of a movie that really should have been in the first. Boondock Saints II, All Saints Day, twenty-two minutes that made it practically a different film.

These directors knew what they were doing. They knew what cut to make it still work and then they knew what to add back to make it rock.

You are the director of your books, only instead of adding scenes in, your work is to sit down with a novel you finished a month ago or so, and start reading and finding those places where it can be polished and cut.

With DEAD MEN PLAY THE GAME out, it’s easy for me to look at this book, longer than anticipated, and remember that on my computer there is a file holding an additional 52,826 words I pulled. Think about that. If I had left them in, my UPS man would be collecting workman’s comp for lifting that box of books.

But it’s not easy. All those words? They matter.

In writing, you must kill all your darlings.”

Good advice, though I found the quote in three different places attributed to Stephen King, Allen Ginsberg and William Faulkner.

Whoever said, it is true. There will be that one scene, one you love so much and you knew when you wrote it made the book. Only when you go back with that purple highlighter in your hand, you read it a few times and realize maybe it doesn’t further the plot as far as it should.

And that is the rule I use.

Does it further the story? Is this character really pulling their weight? Does this…location, song reference, movie reference, piece of dialogue…need to be here?

Editing is a skill as learned as writing.

Because you know what? You might like the writing, but if you don’t do the editing to epic proportions, only your mom will read the book. Editing is a required part of the job. I just got off three months on two different books and for me writing is creative, editing is agonizing work for me. My mind always feels as if its swelling beyond the skull size until everything is fuzzy. But then, I am notorious for ten hour days with no breaks –which is dumb.

You? Take breaks. Maybe use a 45 min on/15 min break schedule (use a timer).

Eat right and don’t skip. You can’t see you used ‘than’ instead of ‘then’ if your blood sugar just bottom lined.

Talk to people once in awhile. Hear a voice to remind you what they sound like.

Sleep eight minimum. Go easy on caffeine. It may keep you going. It might not get you to the end.

When I began teaching LESSONS OF FIREFLY, I learned something. Film is a different medium than books. And where a director has that option to go back in and rerelease, not a lot of us do. We have to be careful with every single word we put into our final version and we have to make sure they shine.

End Scene.

17 responses to “Director’s Cut”

  1. Liz Talley says:

    What a timely post. A friend of mine wrote a beautiful ending to an already published book and after I read it on her extras page last night, I really feel like it should go into the book. It was so encompassing and emotional and, to me, so necessary.

    This is a great reminder to look hard at our scenes.

    • I believe they call that “the second edition”. Go ahead, have her add them in, change the wording on the copyright page, maybe make a note on the cover and there you go!!

      Hope it works out!

  2. jbrayweber says:

    Great post, Jacqui. Personally, I love to edit. It’s like polishing a diamond. And who doesn’t love diamonds?

    Sometimes it is hard. Especially when a scene isn’t quite working, or a character isn’t doing their part, or you haven’t quite dug far enough. But in the end, it’s worth it.


    • LOL … um … not to burst your analogy …. but me. I don’t like diamonds. I know, weird, huh? And I so do not like editing. Hurts the head. It took two of us two weeks for Dead Men Play the Game, emailing half the book back and forth, reading our sections before sending it back to the other … but so far … we have not found a typo. Go me. LOL

    • Elisa Beatty says:

      I’m an editing fan, too! It’s getting that first skeletal draft on the page that seems to take FOREVER. Once I’m tinkering, I can tinker happily all day.

  3. Kate Parker says:

    I think my books are 25% writing and 75% editing, so your post today resonated with me. I always seem to need more editing!

    • That sounds like a very fair number to me. I have taken pages to my husband, pointed out a word that is like “slumbekickov” and asked him “What do you think I was trying to say here?”

      Come to think of it, I do that with my shopping list a lot, too. ^,,^

  4. Tamara Hogan says:

    Editing is my favorite part of the writing process – so much so that I have to MAKE.MYSELF.STOP.

    I chip away at the #WIP a little bit every day. Plenty of breaks for me!

  5. I’ve definitely learned a lot about killing my darlings, mostly from my fabulous editor. There’s always more to learn and it’s often hard to let go.

    The 8 hours of sleep? I’m still working on that one. 🙂

    • It’s very hard to let go. I had to take a 800 word scene out of Dead Men Play the Game due to word count, then was given permission to “add a little more” … and I slapped those 800 back in so fast … I *loved* that scene.

      And sleep … the difference? My kids ages 22+ and moved out. You, not so much … they’ll get bigger, I promise. ^,,^

  6. Kim Law says:

    Great advice Jacqui! I especially liked “Talk to people once in awhile.” LOL. Yeah…if I’m not careful, I never leave my little writing hole.

    • Talking to people is good. Very good. The mailman, the checker at the store. Call someone or Skype. My husband travels about half the time. It’s me and five cats. If I don’t find a person once in awhile … LOL … the cats win.

  7. Talking to people is good. Very good. The mailman, the checker at the store. Call someone or Skype. My husband travels about half the time. It’s me and five cats. If I don’t find a person once in awhile … LOL … the cats win.

  8. Ignore above repeat post that I gave thumbs down, too. Can’t figure out how to remove it.

  9. Rita Henuber says:

    I write backstory and maybe an unnecessary scene here and there for my benefit. It’s to clarify my thoughts all the while knowing they’ll be cut. Had enough from one book to do a short prequel book. Like Tammy, I enjoy editing. In a WIP I snipped 10 pages from a scene. Don’t miss them at all.

    • I actually just heard this in the last couple days. There are no “extra” or “unnecessary” scenes. Someone recommended you format them and put them on your web page as teasers to what is coming next. I thought that was a good idea.

      Thanks Rita.


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