Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Exclusive Content (or the words formerly known as Deleted Scenes)

by Lisa Hughey

There’s a new buzz word, phrase really, in the book industry. Exclusive Content.

Exclusive content is an outlet for deleted scenes that don’t advance the plot or that need to be cut if your publisher says, “too long, darling, cut some” as if you’re snipping your bangs not cutting off the hair that took (sob) years to grow.
Woman getting bangs cut

Now authors put the Deleted Scenes on their websites or blogs (loved Juliet’s from last week) and readers get a secret glimpse, a private peek into the lives of characters they love.

Man peering through blinds

It’s somewhat voyeuristic in nature which makes them all that more delicious to read. And the Exclusive Content I’ve read has always been fun and taken me back to the story I loved--so much so I’m willing to go online and read the deleted scenes.

But, regarding my own work, I have a problem. I don’t have any deleted scenes. And no, this is not to suggest that I write a beautifully clean, fully-formed single draft (if only). No Jack Kerouac here. I have a ‘Leftover’ file for every book I’ve ever written. Pages and pages of notes, random thoughts, cut lines and paragraphs, but no full-fledged scenes. I do occasionally go back and cull a line or a paragraph of description from the file but by and large it’s just a jumble of sentences usually fragments, separated by line breaks.

Clearly, I do chop from my manuscripts. So why don’t I have any Deleted Scenes? I’m too stubborn. If I like a scene for it’s emotion or it’s setting or the plot advancement or because it reminds me of how good of a mood I was in the day I wrote it...I will revise and tweak and labor over every sentence until the scene works in the book. It may take (whimper) five or six passes to get it right, in which time, I’ll have added exponentially to my ‘Leftover’ file but I will, by damn, have a completed scene that finally works in the manuscript.

My 'Leftover' file does not resemble a miniature meal to be re-heated later, it's no chicken piccata with a smattering of capers and a few tablespoons of sauce with a side of steamed broccoli. My 'Leftover' file looks more like a decimated Thanksgiving meal, plates littered with the bits and pieces of turkey, chunks of celery from the stuffing, and smashed sweet potatoes divested of their crispy melted marshmallows, all mixed together into an unappetizing mess that no one wants to re-heat.

Leftovers from Holiday Dinner

So deleted scene? No. Do I have absolutely brilliant snippets of dialogue, snappy repartee or hard wrought similes (sometimes I’ll come up with a great simile that fits the scene and the tone and the plot perfectly....I’ll smile over my cleverness and then whack that puppy with a thunk of my fingers on the keyboard because it suits everything except the character’s voice, dammit) or even pieces of scenes written from an alternate character’s POV? Yes.

But nothing that would qualify as ‘exclusive content’.


ps. I had an ending, but I deleted it. :)


L.G.C. Smith said...

You write more efficiently than some of us, and I can't see that as a bad thing. Seeing as I will have hundreds of pages of 'exclusive content,' sometimes I wish I could be more like you. :)

Unknown said...

Screenwriting makes a body ruthless about re-arranging, combining, tossing whole scenes for the health of the overall sequence, and other crimes against our darlings.

It's a genuine delight to know I don't have to hit the same "marks" in a novel as a screenplay, so much more freedom. But I still rework the hell out of everything -- word, sentence, paragraph, scene, sequence, act.

Most cruel exercise from one of my classes: think up ten different ways for your main character to:

meet antagonist
reveal core inner conflict
reveal core external conflict


by #4 I'm all "forget it. I'll just learn how to knit or weave baskets" and by #8 I'm all "oh, hey, that's almost original!"

Too bad I can't think of the good scenes before I write the crappy ones. Oh well :)


Martha Flynn said...

You can always 'exclusively' show how a scene was transformed from first to last draft. :) As one of your fans, I'd like that.

Sophie Littlefield said...

LOVE the Thanksgiving analogy!!

...and you got me thinking about the eight billion words I cut from all the ya revisions....*bonus content* here I come!!

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