Hitting delete is a painful process for a writer. Erasing the words we worked so hard to craft can be agonizing. It can be especially difficult when the words are GREAT on the surface. The prose is beautiful, the dialogue is sparkling, and the emotion is riveting. Then the author comes the realization that a character, a scene, a subplot, or even a big chunk of the book has to go for the overall story to work.
Or does it really have to go?
Sometimes simply deleting is the wrong answer. The new book I have coming out in a few weeks is the perfect example. LEFT TURN AT PARADISE released in June, and it was a book that had a few different lives. The story centers on Layla McCarthy, who was abandoned as a baby and raised by her grandmother. Layla’s mother comes back, seeking to make amends. The original version had three points-of-view (POV)…Layla, her grandmother (Barbara McCarthy), and her mother (Elizabeth “Beth” McCarthy). Writing Beth’s story was a challenge. I had to come up with strong reasons why a mother would give up her baby. Those reasons led to a character that was compelling, complex, and deeply moving. I sent the finished draft to someone for editing and she pointed out that, although the mother’s POV was wonderful, it almost overshadowed Layla’s POV. So, I made the painful decision to take out Beth’s scenes.
Only, I didn’t delete them. I decided that Beth should get her own book. I took the scenes I’d already written and added several more to flesh out the story. Some scenes are mirrors of those that were in Left Turn At Paradise…others show things that happened “off screen”. Letting Beth “speak” revealed a very powerful story of a woman who never felt like she was enough, despite being physically beautiful. It’s the story of a woman who has been broken by life, and by illness, and who now only wants to make things right. She even has a chance to discover that it’s never too late to find true love…or more accurately…find the true love that slipped away.
I’m so glad I had the foresight to hold on the Beth’s story, and I’m glad readers will get to fall in love with her like I did.
COMING HOME TO PARADISE is a prime example of not hitting “delete”, but making great writing work some other way.