Claire King


The Cutting Room Floor

Posted on: July 12th, 2010 by Claire - 12 Comments

The much quoted and rather brilliant Kurt Vonnegut gave us eight rules for writing fiction. I’m not a fan of rules, so I have taken them as useful suggestions. One of which is particularly resonant at editing time:

“Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action”

And so, after the first draft is written, we are supposed to set about killing our darlings. Words, sentences, paragraphs, whole swathes of narrative that may be beautifully crafted, descriptive, witty or heart stopping…but are completely extraneous to both the plot and the character.
cutting-room-floorIn the film industry, the cutting room floor is not so terminal. Scenes that didn’t make it into the finished movie are stored tidily, just in case they should ever be needed again. This appeals to the part of me that kept all my university essays for fifteen years and five house moves. To the part of me that finds it hard to discard even one of the drawings that my artistically prolific little girls produce. To the part of me that has kept letters for thirty years, bundled up in ribbons, even though the sentiments have long since faded.

And so, I confess to you here, my darlings are not dead. I couldn’t do it. Instead they are cut and pasted into their own offcuts file – “Dead Darlings” – just in case I should ever need to splice them back in.

This may seem like taking the easy way out, but who is it hurting? It gave me the courage to chop away with gay abandon at my manuscript, and it’s not like they take up any room in the attic.

12 Responses

  1. Martha says:

    There is always room in the world for more gay abandon. Hurray for your undead darlings!

  2. Brian Meeks says:

    That seems like an incredibly prudent thing to do. I am a bit of a word pack rat too. Sometime I have an idea and just write a bit. It never makes it into anything, but it is there, just waiting for an emergency.

    I think I will start to do that with edits too. Thanks for the idea.

  3. Asfora says:

    For the last 3 years I have been trying to get into the habit of de-cluttering and not hoarding “stuff” as in ornaments, clothes, shoes, gadgets, souvenirs etc. I came across the FlyLady site which helped me to make decisions about whether to keep an item or throw it out, liek asking yourself questions such as do I love it, do I need it? do I already have one equally as good? Do I need 2? Could someone else make better use of it? Is it really trash? So that has helped me to clear out huge areas of clutter. BUT! When it comes to books and my own journals, notebooks and diaries, and things like my kids’ artwork – I cannot bear to part with them. One idea someone suggested is to take photos or scans of the work or item you are having trouble parting with, so you will have a digital version which takes up considerably less space. Could be a bit time consuming though LOL 😀

    • claire says:

      Thanks for the reminder Asfora! I found FlyLady a while ago too, but since then two children have happened, and now it’s sentimental baby clothes and toys, toys, toys. I must have another crack at de-cluttering soon! Love your website, fabulous bento boxes!

  4. Kerry says:

    I have a subfile for whatever novel I’m working on that is actually called “Darlings”. Every thing I cut that hurts me to cut it, goes there.

  5. […] for bloglet moments: Claire King is chopping with gay abandon (she is), Andrew Philip interviews Tania Hershman on Tonguefire, and […]

  6. […] This – ‘The cutting room floor’ is the post I made in July 2010 when I was editing some more. […]

  7. […] always go green and recycle them if it makes you feel better. See my post from this time last year ‘The Cutting Room Floor’ , but note also that I never used any of my offcuts after all… Tweet This […]

  8. […] The Cutting Room Floor (2010) […]

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