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news&blog -> from the cutting room floor

I Live and Breathe

As I told you all last time (when the world was still in the summer portion of its orbit), I’ve been working on a new book in a new series. True enough. I finished the first draft at the end of August, and then decided that it would be a good idea to load up my quiver with new experiences. Which is why I went and had back surgery. (Not because I had blown a disk playing basketball–that had nothing to do with my decision).

A team of people in a refrigerated room sliced me open, chunked out a portion of one of my vertebrae (L5), and then scraped a bunch of splattered cartilage off of the nerve stems sticking out of my spinal column. When they’d finished, they didn’t even bother to sew me back up. They used glue. I meant to have the whole thing filmed so I could post the video here, but in the heat of the moment, I forgot.

Yesterday was my first day actually back at my desk (though still only in spurts), and I have now had more than a month to ponder and chew and mull (both on and off of painkillers) on the manuscript I completed before getting cut.

Second draft time.

Anyhow, thanks for your patience. And apologies for the lack of video. I’m sure it would have been thrilling.


The Lost History of Henry, Kansas

Murder your darlings. The advice is frequently trotted out in writing circles. (It is just as often misattributed to Oscar Wilde or F. Scott Fitz or some other luminary. In actuality, the mantra comes from Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, and he probably stole it from his grandmother). No matter who it was that first thunk it, the advice is good. It’s quite easy to become particularly attached to a bit of prose that isn’t actually pulling its weight in the broader narrative. It could be fabulously written, but throwing off the pace. It could be distracting. It could be a bit of over-intrusive narration. It could be terrible, but you love it anyway. Be ruthless. Make sure all your prose serves the best interest of the story (and your readers).

As an example, I give you the lost history of Henry, Kansas. I wrote this. I like it despite its many faults. But it is clearly chub, nonetheless, and I slashed it from my book. It came early in the first chapter of 100 Cupboards (while Frank and Dorothy Willis were waiting for the bus), and it lengthened an already slow build to action. For a couple of years, it has been dwelling in some dark corner of my hard drive. But now, it sees the light—blinking, dusty, useless. . . Read the rest of this entry »