Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Cutting Room Floor

What happens when you have to cut a beloved part of your first draft? Oh, I am in agonies! I wrote the following excerpt from Revising Mr. Right in response to a writing group exercise, and it doesn't fit with the rest of my novel at all. For one thing, it's written in first-person and the rest of the novel is third-person POV. For another, if I included this excerpt then I'd have to write about a whole camping trip... and that leaves them up in the woods too long. Not good. I want the ex-boyfriend to have quick and easy access to SeaTac Airport, so he can get the hell out of my narrative.

So. I know I need to cut it. And yet... it's so fun to write about men behaving badly. I feel weirdly attached to this scene. I enjoy it more than the alternative "pissing contest" I've set up over a game of pool. And I also feel bizarre and slightly naked posting it on this blog, but I wanted it to exist somewhere in the world, if only for a little while.

Soon I will feel self-conscious and paranoid and ashamed of taking up so much space on DSW. At that point, I'm sure, I'll remove it from the blogosphere. But in the mean time... here's an excerpt that won't make any sense to anyone but the Flitgirl. With that warning, please feel free to wade through my prose. And if you manage to get through to the end, riddle me this:

What's an author to do when an alien chunk of cut text feels more fun than the rest of her draft, but would spin the final third of her (much beleaguered) manuscript in a wholly new direction?

* * * * *
Revising Mr. Right
by Kate Diamond
Jessica Jo Carter, the heroine, tells her story (excerpt):

Bad things happen when I feel generous. Case in point: Walter sitting in the cab of Jude's truck, his knees not quite relaxed because he doesn't want his khakis making any more contact than necessary with the old, duct-taped bench seat.

I'm literally sitting between the two of them, wishing I could be anywhere but here--except not really, because then they'd be alone in the vehicle without my specialized supervision. Perish the thought.

I never should have said yes to this. It was supposed to be just like old times, a birthday camping trip--leave the presents in the trunk, hike in enough cupcakes and Ramen to last us the weekend. The only difference was that now we were actually old enough to bring beer. Oh, and Becca was on her cell phone every five minutes making sure her deadbeat husband hadn't managed to lose, mangle, or kill their kid in her absence.

And Walter. Walter was suddenly there, too, an outlier with his oatmeal colored Eddie Bauer sweater and barely concealed hostility. Why my ex thought it so important to join us--to the tune of $800 in new camping equipment--was beyond me. Personally, I could have done without the Cape Cod contingency.

He didn't really love me. I think we both knew that by now. When I'd told him to get over himself and go back to Boston, I think he was just annoyed to hear the word "no." I mean, let's face it: we were never the best match on earth. He spent countless hours drilling me in etiquette and railing against my aversion to pantyhose and high heels. And from my point of view, no true romantic should ever marry a guy who thinks faxing a prenup counts as proposing.

He knew all this. I'm sure he did. But Walter? Walter hated to lose. For that reason he refused to leave without a fight, and Jude seemed more than willing to give him one. This left me on horrified standby, wondering why men's logic seems to drop as their testosterone levels rise. Suddenly, my childhood best friend felt the need to pose and beat his chest over me--would probably drag me around by my hair if I let him. It was creepy. More than that, it was obnoxious. After all, thanks to Jude's lack of maturity my nostalgic birthday trip was about to turn into some sort of nature boy pissing contest.

If he'd listened to me, we'd all be spared some heartache. I'd told him he'd win any kind of contest against Walter, hands down. I'd said that he was my choice, that I was staying the Northwest for good this time, and that I wanted to make things work between the two of us. But apparently Jude didn't believe me. Either that, or he felt the need to test my love by goading my ex in the great outdoors.

I'd tried to change his mind that night at the bar, when he first issued the invitation--or was it challenge? I'd made another effort when we were packing up the food supplies and adding extra rations for Walter. This morning was my last attempt. By mile twenty, I'd realized that Jude refused to hear anything I'd try to say to him. He was too busy being macho, singing along with Johnny Cash to the "Cocaine Blues."

"Don't you have anything else we could listen to?" Walter practically hissed.

"Sorry, Walt," Jude laughed, not sounding sorry at all. If we hadn't caught the insincerity in his voice, the fact that he then turned up the volume was a big tip-off. And I couldn't believe he had the audacity to glare at me, as if this was somehow my fault.

I crossed my arms over my chest and hoped he could read my mind: no sleeping bag nookie for you, Neanderthal Boy. Finished glaring at my annoying beloved, I stared out the windshield at the car up ahead of us.

Hmm. All things considered, maybe I should have ridden with Becca after all.

* * * * *

All rights reserved. No part of this Revising Mr. Right excerpt may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without the author's written permission except in the case of brief, credited quotations embodied in critical comments.


theflitgirl said...

You've got balls, girl! And, I must restate, such a wonderful voice. I love the scene and it makes me want Walter to show up in the actual draft! Pretty please?

And what you do when you've written a scene that doesn't fit is you save it and see if maybe little bits of it will fit somewhere else. Like in Walter's story. Because somewhere between the $800 camping equipment and the faxed prenup, I fell in love with the lug and now I want to read his story.

Kate D. said...

Yeah, what's up with that? It's like the more obnoxious I make the ex, the more I start to have a secret crush on him... I guess the only question is, does he end up with Ainslie?

Sig said...

You like Walter!? I only know of him from this and he seems HORRIBLE--selfish and stunted. Plus territorial (not that Jude isn't, though).
This is a great scene--I love getting in the brain of the heroine. I think "I could have done without the Cape Cod contingency" is my favorite line!
I also love that it's the boys fighting over girl dynamic without being serious or dramatic--just troublesome and (for the reader) entertaining.

Theresa said...

Is Imogen could be redeemed (and, surprisingly, I really liked that one), Walter totally deserves his own love. Someone, somewhere (but not here) he will find true love.

In the meantime, WHY CAN'T I READ MORE? Please? I love your writing. Sorry to be so uncritical, but really, I love your writing.

Shan said...

Alright sugar, here's my suggestion for your renegade scene: keep it and turn it into a short story, OR keep in and turn it into a prologue, OR keep it and turn it into a second book. Just keep it. It's lovely. I especially love Walter's horror at the thought of grubbying up his khakis... oh the L.L. Bean truth of it all....
Unfortunately for you Miss Kate, you've gone and made me want to read the rest of your book. Or at least more of it. JUST GIVE ME SOMETHING! And if you really want criticism, I can possibly give you some, though it will be insignificant and miniscule and NOT given in a public forum. Fabulous scene... perhaps I should show up at one of these writer meetings you were talking about....

theflitgirl said...

Is this what you needed Kate? Have the applauding throngs convinced you yet that you've got to go for this? You've got talent to spare, my dear. Please, please put your work out there!

Kate D. said...

Yes, I'm an attention whore. I think I was getting lonely and bored in my little study... okay, back to work...

theflitgirl said...

We're all attention whores. No judgment implied.

tagideon said...

Kate, this was wonderful!

My fav: "Walter was an outlier..." was great-I could just picture him in his pressed khakis, light sweater and simmering temper.

This writing needs to be used, some day, some how. Consider Theresa's idea. Walter should have a story of his own.

Perhaps you could have a snippet of this scene appear in your current manuscript and then flesh out the full story in Walter's book ala Julia Quinn. (remember Colin's tirade about not wanting to marry Penelope?)

Walter has enough quirks to make me want to see him pointed in the right direction...hum, like maybe Jessie's sassy roomie?

Don't leave Walter on the cutting room floor and finish Revising Mr. Right so we can all get our hands on it after we finish theflitgirl's best seller.

Keep Scribbling!

A. Tootsie said...

What talent, girl!

Walter definitely needs his own story, but why not mention him in Revsing Mr. Right?

When will we see something in print! I can hardly wait for this best seller!