If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.

WWK's May interviews will be: 5/2--indie author Bobbi Holmes, 5/9--TG Wolff (aka--Anita Devito), 5/16--Chocolate Bonbon author Dorothy St. James, 5/23--Lida Sideris, 5/30--Food Lovers' Village (and multiple Agatha winner) Leslie Budwitz. Please join us in welcoming these authors to WWK.

Our May Saturday Guest Blogger Schedule: 5/5--John Carenen, 5/12--Judy Penz Sheluk, 5/19--Margaret S. Hamilton, 5/26--Kait Carson.

Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Tina Whittle's sixth Tai Randolph mystery, Necessary Ends, debuts on April 3, 2018. Look for it here. Tina was nominated for a Derringer Award for her novelette, "Trouble Like A Freight Train Coming." We're all crossing our fingers for her.

James M. Jackson's Empty Promises, the next in the Seamus McCree mystery series (5th), will be available on April 3, 2018. Purchase links are here.

Dark Sister, a poetry collection, is Linda Rodriguez's tenth published book. It's available for sale here:

Shari Randall's "Pets" will be included in Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies anthology, which will be published in 2018. In the same anthology "Rasputin," KM Rockwood's short story, will also be published. Look for E. B. Davis's interview with the authors in this anthology on 4/14! Her short story "Goldie" will be published in the Busted anthology, which will be released by Level Best Books on April 25th.

Shari Randall's second Lobster Shack Mystery, Against the Claw, will be available in August, 2018.

In addition, our prolific KM has had the following shorts published as well: "Making Tracks" in Passport to Murder, Bouchercon anthology, October 2017 and "Turkey Underfoot," appears in the anthology The Killer Wore Cranberry: A Fifth Course of Chaos.


Saturday, July 6, 2013

Death By 'Delete’

Today I get to welcome to Salad Bowl Saturdays a new-to-me writer, Alan Cupp, who is part of the hen house authors at Henery Press. Editing is probably my favorite part of writing (other than reading?), and Alan writes in this blog about some difficulties of editing characters we have come to love, or at least respect.

~ Jim


As a writer, I often have to kill people. Obviously, this is within the realm of my stories and not those real life individuals I interact with on a day-to-day basis. Although, I will confess the thought has crossed my mind a time or two, usually during rush hour traffic. But you shouldn’t murder people in real life because there are consequences and it’s wrong. So I do my best to avoid it. However, in my stories it’s a safe assumption that someone will most likely end up dead.

The challenging part is killing off a character I originally wrote into the story, only to realize later they really aren’t necessary in my final draft. These poor defenseless individuals die at the hand of the editing process. They never see it coming. One moment they’re flourishing on page fifty-two, connected and confident their existence is serving to move the story forward, only to end up the victim of the dreaded ‘delete’ button.

Whether it’s a character or a specific scene in the story, cutting something out that you spent time and effort to create and develop, is seldom easy. Usually, I attempt to tweak the story some way to justify keeping everything as close to how I originally wrote it as possible. Why? Because it’s already there and it took an investment of my time and creative juices to put it there. To simply scrap it would indicate I am not getting anything back for that investment. By golly, I spent my valuable time developing and writing that scene or character into the story. I can’t just toss it aside now. That would mean I completely wasted my time.

Ironically, there are other areas of my life where I am guilty of wasting my time that don’t seem to bother me as much. For instance, watching the same movie for the thirty-fourth time. How many times do I need to see Die Hard? I suppose the difference is other than my time, I haven’t invested anything else. Whereas a character in one of my stories represents something I created.

Nobody likes to think that something they created isn’t worthwhile enough to keep forever. We tell ourselves it was good and important when I thought it up. How is it that now it serves as more of an obstacle to my story than something that enhances it? It’s a direct reflection on us. Yet, I dare say that everyone, even the best writers, sooner or later have to face the humbling reality that they’ve penned something not worth keeping.

This is why writers have editors. These are those gracious, honest folks who are willing to point out the weaknesses of our manuscripts. Like a sculptor, an editor has to chip away all the clunky, excess stuff that inhibit the full beauty of the finished piece of art.

Ideally, I like to discover as many of the wasted words as possible before the editor gets a hold of my manuscript. For one, it softens the blow of getting a heavily marked-up manuscript back from the editor. Getting a manuscript returned to me that is covered in red is somewhat disheartening. And two, I want to communicate to my editor that I really did put a great deal of time and thoughtful effort into the manuscript. Unfortunately, due to our deeply personal attachment to our own work, we writers are not always the most objective judges. It can be quite difficult to pick up on those aspects of our stories that don’t contribute or belong.

The good news is that usually the longer we do this, the better we get at looking at our manuscripts with an outsider’s perspective. We draw on the constructive criticism and lessons learned in the past. It’s still not easy. When a writer reads through what they’ve written, and it becomes apparent that a particular secondary character or a series of paragraphs or God forbid, an entire chapter isn’t working, highlighting and deleting is still a daunting chore. No writer likes to see the word count of their manuscript going backwards. It means we’re still that much further from our ultimate and rewarding goal of a completed story.

In the end, death by deletion is a necessary evil of writing. I just feel bad for those characters who are tossed aside, rejected because they serve no purpose. Perhaps they all gather together in some deep corner of my mind, waiting for an opportunity to be reincarnated into another character for a future tale of intrigue in which they come to life on the pages of a fully edited and polished manuscript. 

Alan Cupp loves to create and entertain, whether it’s with a captivating mystery novel or a funny promotional video for his church, he’s always anticipating his next creative endeavor. In addition to writing fiction, Alan enjoys acting, music, travel, and playing sports. His life’s motto is, “It’s better to wear out than rust out.” Alan places a high value on time spent with his beautiful wife and their two sons. He lives his life according to his 4F philosophy: Faith, Family, Friends, and Fun. 


Paula Gail Benson said...

Alan, welcome to WWK and thanks for your thoughtful message. I once heard Gillian Roberts say she sent all her deleted characters and passages to a hotel where they lived until they were needed for a new work. Unfortunately, she said, she had never recalled any from the hotel, but she hoped they were living there happily. Best wishes to you and your deletions!

James Montgomery Jackson said...

One of the things I find in early drafts is that often I have more than one character who in the editing process I discover are serving the same purpose.

Rather than a straight kill one/keep one often a Vulcan mind meld approach works (although I do have to admit I do not meld the names; one of the personalities does take over.)

Thanks for joining us today, Alan.

~ Jim

E. B. Davis said...

I've had the same deletions occur at the hands of editors. The reasons for their inclusion are my mistaken belief that this bit of research will interest the reader or this event from reality will enhance the credibility of my story. What editors point out--that piece of research stuck into my narrative seems out of place or unnecessary--and a real event may not further the story but bog it down or have the opposite effect since truth is often stranger than fiction.

I take the deletions with aplomb. I have no ego about them anymore because I value editors' insight since I'm too enmeshed in the story to see it.

Warren Bull said...

Thanks for sharing something all writers have to deal with. I like Gillian Roberts' idea but the hotel sounds like Hotel California.

Alan C said...

Thank you folks for having me on today and for the comments. It's nice to hear how others deal with their throw-away characters.

Shari Randall said...

Alan, thanks for stopping by - this was a timely post for me as I have a character in just this situation. Just yesterday I started thinking, Hmmm, what is she doing here? Perhaps it's time for her to check in to that hotel - though I do love her accent.
Best of luck with your book. Sounds good and I like the cover - that Henery Press look is great.

Gloria Alden said...

Alan, thank you for taking time to blog for us today. You've made some good points. I know I get very attached to my characters so it is hard to get rid of any of them, but I realize sometimes it is necessary.

KM said...

I like to write short stories with my deleted characters. Sometimes the stories are junk, & sometimes they seem to work.

I have one right now where the editor told me to cut the character's role to a bare minimum. But I'm fascinated with the character. He's a skinny, small "marina bum" called Skipper who "borrows" sailboats & takes them for trips. If reasonably convenient, he returns them. Or at least ties them up where they will be found & returned. While operating out of a pleasure boat marina in Baltimore City, he is surprised by a watchman, hits him and doesn't realize until later he's fallen off the dock and drowned. Now, of course, he'd been convicted of murder & in the classification & diagnostics unit of the state prison system. He's collecting dental floss in the from the other inmates & using his sailor's knot tying skills, he's making a rope of braided floss that he's hoping to use in an escape attempt.