Outtakes ~ A New Category
Outtakes, the clipped segments of film and video sometimes included on DVDs, often provide a laugh, or maybe just a sense of curiosity about a scene that looks pretty good but for some reason got cut. The film was too long. Something had to go. Or it was somehow lacking.
I think I’ve written about the clipping I had to do on my book A Place of Her Own before it could see print. But to recap, my agent was initially concerned about the length of my manuscript, which ran 112,000 words. She told me this type of book should ideally be between 80,000 and 90,000 words. She asked if I could cut it some. I cut it down to 106,000 and was fairly pleased with that. It’s no small task to cut 6,000 words. She politely looked at it, then asked me to go ahead and get it down to 90,000 so we had that as a given before we submitted it to a publisher. Whoa! She was serious about 90,000. That meant a total of 22,000 words. You don’t get 22,000 words out of a document by snipping a word or phrase here and there. That meant some whole scenes had to go. And I had toiled lovingly over every scene.
Well, I did it. I slashed many of my beauties and got it down to 90,000. Then my agent submitted it to an editor. The editor liked it, said it fit her list, but she wouldn’t make an offer the way it was. I had entitled the book Two Women Across Time and had wound my story of returning to our family farm together with Martha’s story of her long road to obtaining that farm. And in my chapters I also described my search for Martha. My chapters were short because I knew my story paled in comparison with Martha’s. But the editor wanted even less of mine. She liked my search for Martha and said if I could come up with a device to show that and not the other, she would be happy to take another look at it.
I told my agent I didn’t think we should walk away from this kind of interest. I wasn’t that wedded to my part. I would cut all the superfluous parts of my chapters and include the description of my search for Martha in several “Interludes.” So I did that. And then–what would you know?–I didn’t have enough words. Sheesh! I was able to bring back some of Martha’s scenes, but not all.
When I chat with people in book club meetings or Q&A sessions after readings, we occasionally talk about the cuts. And sometimes folks wonder if they haven’t missed something. “Do you regret cutting those scenes?” some ask.
Well, no, I don’t.
Painful as it was at the time, I believe my agent and editor were right. I think it’s a much stronger book the way it came out. For every cut there was a reason. Still, some of those scenes were pretty good, and for folks who feel they missed something, I suggested the possibility of putting the slashed scenes on my blog, and I received some strong encouragement to do just that. So in the next several weeks I’m going to share several of those “outtakes” to let you see what you missed. I’ll post the first in a couple of days.
I hope you enjoy these added glimpses into the story and the process.