Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Cutting Room Floor

I'm back to the grindstone with Boundless, working on a new round of edits. And I'm preparing for my son's grand debut into kindergarten. And I'm prepping for two classes that I am teaching at Pepperdine, also starting next week: my Intro to Creative Writing class and a YA lit class that I've never taught before and therefore have a ton of extra prep work to do. And I am writing a short story for an anthology. I have a very long interview to write up. And reading a friend's manuscript. And a bunch of other stuff.

In other words, I just got really freaking busy.

So, in the midst of all this craziness, I am coming back to Boundless with the intent to cut at least 5,000 words. At least. Whole scenes are hitting the cutting room floor. Whole scenes, people!

Trimming an entire scene always hurts like a paper cut.

In the past, I've taken some consolation in the fact that the deleted scenes from my books can be made available in different ways. I can use them as exclusive content for the Young Adult Scavenger Hunt, which I do twice a year, and there are a few other sites where my cut stuff has ended up since Unearthly was published. It makes the cut sting a bit less, knowing that even though the scene wasn't good or important enough to make it into the book, that doesn't mean that nobody will ever see it. Deleted scenes are fun!

But here's what's bugging me today:

Hmm, where to begin? Okay. Here goes. I try not to read reviews. I am getting better at it, too, the not-reading-reviews thing, I mean. I hardly ever check Goodreads anymore, because I ultimately think that it's not good for me as an artist. If I read too many reviews I start thinking differently about my story, not for the sake of the art, but for the sake of people pleasing. I start having imaginary conversations with people I don't know at 2am, where I say to them, pleadingly, "Yes, yes, I know that it's a love triangle, technically, but really, if you'd just examine the entire thing more closely, you'd see that it's not a real love triangle. . ."

It makes me think about Daniel Radcliffe during an interview, when he was asked, "Do you read what people say about you?" and he immediately responded, "No. That way lies madness."

Yes. Reading your own reviews=madness. I get that. I try to resist the temptation. Most of the time.

So imagine me this morning, sitting down to chop away at my current manuscript. I work for a while. I check Twitter. I check my email. A Google alerts comes up, which alerts me to the fact that somebody has just reviewed Unearthly 2.1. Wha?????! I think. But no, mustn't read a review, I think. But what the heck is Unearthly 2.1?

I click the link. Yes, it's true. There is an Unearthly 2.1, a cut scene from Hallowed. 252 people have rated this scene, and something like 30 people have reviewed it.

My first thought is, Cool, 252 people have read my deleted scene!

My next thought is, Wow, there are about 20 people who really don't like this scene.

My next thought is, Oh come on, people. It's a DELETED scene. Which means it didn't make the cut. It wasn't good enough. Relax! There are real scenes, IN THE BOOK, so go read those.

And I'm back to having imaginary conversations with people I don't know.

Sigh. Well, that's why I avoid reading reviews, isn't it? I remind myself. No biggie. Except now, when I go back to work on my Boundless manuscript, I think, well, this scene has to go, but is it good enough to ever see the light of day? Because if I release this scene, it will probably get REVIEWED.

This makes me want to revise the scene I'm going to cut. Which is so not the point of cutting extraneous scenes. And so not a good use of my time.

And, ultimately, it makes me less likely to want to share my deleted scenes. I cut them because they weren't good enough. To cut them and then have people criticize them for not being good enough is a bit like pouring lemon juice in my paper cut.

Ouch. Ouch, I say.

Now, I also want to make a few things clear. Prepare for the disclaimer:

1. Goodreads is good. As an avid reader, I adore Goodreads. As an author, it kind of terrifies me, but that's okay. That's natural. As an author, I should be scared of Goodreads. But I am 100% glad Goodreads exists. In fact, I attribute Goodreads to a big part of Unearthly's success. To date Unearthly has 3,781 reviews (and over 25,000 ratings), so many of them good. People are talking about my books, and I am so grateful that there is a place like Goodreads where they can talk about my books.

2. I think people, on Goodreads and elsewhere, have an absolute right to their opinions, and should be able to write whatever they want in their reviews. Period. I have imaginary conversations with some of my negative reviewers, but never in a million years would I ever dream of actually communicating with the writer of a negative review. They deserve to be able to voice their opinions without being confronted by the authors or their friends. (I do, however, sometimes think wistfully about the old days when all the critics ran in the same social circles as the writers and occasionally Hemingway liked to quote a critic's bad review back to him at a party and then punch him in the face. There was a kind of accountability for what you said, back then, before the basic anonymity of the internet.)

3. I most likely will release more deleted scenes, not to worry, because my publisher thinks it's good publicity and because, at the end of the day, I still like those scenes, and it makes me happy to be able to share them with people who will get a kick out of reading them. Which leads me to. . .

4. Maybe I'm overreacting. I am willing to consider this possibility. Maybe this whole post is a kind of knee-jerk reaction to the surprise of being reviewed on something I didn't expect to be reviewed on.

So tell me, what do you think? Are reviews for deleted scenes a good thing? Do you think this practice will make authors more hesitant to release deleted scenes, or is it just another sign of the technological age we live in, that we get to see and judge all content, not just what makes it into the pages of a print book? What should become of all that extra stuff on the cutting room floor?


Brodi Ashton said...

NEVER CLICK ON THOSE TWEETS! I think we should subscribe to the following:

Step one: Write the best stuff we can

Step two: Throw it out into the world for public consumption

Step three: plug our ears and sing "lalalalala" loudly until no more reviews come in

Rinse and Repeat

Easy peezy.

Cynthia Hand said...

Lol. I totally agree with that. LALALALALA!!!!

Anonymous said...

Funny how after reading the entire thing I got stuck at the not "real" part. My mind is analyzing it too much, making me scared for my ship. I completely agree that there's more to it than the average love triangle. It's part of the reason why I love it so but the romance junkie inside of me is just frantic! Haha.

Anyway, even if some people don't like your deleted scenes at least your sure one person will love them all- me :D I really enjoy your writing and I hope your write more even if it was outside the Unearthly series.

Good luck with your busy schedule!

Cynthia Hand said...


I should clarify that that particular imaginary conversation was about Unearthly, as in Book 1. If that puts your mind at ease. . . Which it might not, lol. Thanks for the support!

Bia said...

I hope you'll decide to keep releasing deleted scenes and other extra contents, because I, for one (and I'm sure many other people, too), love reading them. They make the waiting for the next book more bearable.
As for having deleted scenes up on goodreads for people to rate and review, that's just weird for me. Because I always thought of these scenes as "gifts" for the fans of the series and I don't think it's fair to judge them, especially when people only give them bad ratings because they don't feature their favorite character/couple.

Is the short story you're writing for the anthology Unearthy-related or is it something completely different/new?

Anonymous said...

As a reviewer, I think reviewing delete scenes is stupid and pointless. I also think it's stupid and pointless to add them to Goodreads because hello, they are DELETED SCENES. They never made the final cut, but they are extras. I like reading them, but I would never review them. What would I say, "Unearthly 2.1 was stupid. I can see why Cynthia Hand deleted it." ?!

Yeah, no.

Aravis said...

I occasionally write reviews on Goodreads but would never think to review a deleted scene. I think that's unfair. I enjoy reading those scenes, but know that there's a reason they didn't make the cut. I like them for what they are.

I also always try to include something positive in my reviews even if I'm writing a bad one. Constructive criticism is more helpful for both the reader and the writer, always remembering that it's subjective. Furthermore, the author has poured themself into their book and has done something I haven't. I admire that, and want to make sure that the author's efforts are appreciated, even if I didn't care for the book in the end. Nasty reviews (though sometimes funny in a snarky way) are ultimately hurtful. I can understand why authors would choose not to read them.

Thank you for the hours of joy your books have brought med!

Anonymous said...

Hmm, such an interesting post!

First, I'm a "reviewer". I post reviews in my blog, mainly to keep a record of what I've read and to help my mind remember, cause I have very bad memory and I tend to forget everything easily.

That being said, I've come to think that the whole book reviewing world has gotten a bit out of control lately. LOL. With the whole internet turned into a web of blogs and social networks where everyone can say, really, whatever the heck its in their minds, I think there's a lot of room to "overdo it".

I haven't been around the literary blogsphere for that long and, even so, I've seen a lot of problems caused by this so-called "freedom of speech" that we all enjoy thanks to the internet, the anonymity it theoretically provides and the fact that a lot of people think that, just because it's online, they can do/say whatever they want.

Like you say, everyone's entitled to their opinions. However, I do believe there are certain things that we all should take into account when reviewing a book.

First, a lot of reviewers are NOT real authors and have never written a book, It's very easy to criticize without proving that you can actually do things better. We can all be critics, but only a few actually know what they're talking about. And, if one can't actually do something better, then it's better to express yourself with care and, maybe, accept the fact that there may be some things one could be missing.

Also, there's the fact that there are ways and ways of saying things. One can express a critic in a respectful way, as a *personal opinion* and not the absolute truth, and one can express the same thought in such a way that it may become hateful and/or hurtful to the person being criticized.

Of course, everyone says that a professional should be able to handle criticism, and that is true. But it's not like people "can't handle criticism", it's just that it comes to them in a hurtful or offensive way. After all, most writers are sensitive people, artists, and have sensitivities that may be slightly enhanced, compared to some other people.

A lot of reviewers forget that, after all, writing is a personal act, that you do mostly because it's something YOU enjoy, not to please potential readers. You write the story in a certain way because it's YOUR STORY and you are entitled to do whatever they want with it. Hoping a book to be what I want it to be, with 100% accuracy is kind of silly, unless you wrote the book yourself.

Now, as for deleted scenes, their public release and the potential criticism they may get, I think it's completely stupid to review something that was actually DELETED from the book. Even if it's not that bad in itself, because some deleted scenes may be awesome, there's a reason why they were deleted in the first place. If you are lucky enough to read them, it's plain stupid to go and waste time criticizing it. What could you possibly achieve by criticizing something that shouldn't even exist? x_x

I think this tendency may definitely affect the willingness of authors to share deleted scenes because it must be hard to get (bad) reviews, but it's part of the job and you know you need to deal with it. But getting criticized and hurt due to things that people wouldn't even know if you hadn't shared it in the first place, must suck even more!

The net is way too filled with egomaniacs and all those egos collide... And, when it comes to reviews, a lot of people forget than, beyond themselves, there's an artist and his/her feelings to consider.

I hope I get to read some of your deleted scenes, by the way! xD I've never read any, but that's prolly because I'm way to clueless and I always miss things. ^_^

Thank you for your interesting posts, keep up the wonderful work, and sorry for the long rambling!

Hugs from Chile.

Miss Jessica said...

Hi Cynthia,

I'm a big fan of your books. I even got to meet you once at RT and you were lovely. I'm also the person who added Unearthly 2.1 to goodreads. *ducks* The reason I did so was because when I discover a deleted scene from a book I love, through goodreads or elsewhere, it's like Christmas morning. Sometimes I wish the scene had remained in the book, sometimes I understand why it was cut, but the fact that it lets me know more about a character is thrilling to me. And I want other fans to have that experience. The great thing about goodreads is that the author extras can be found all in one place. I can't follow every author's blog or twitter, but by looking at the GR page I can find everything I'm looking for.

I'd feel terrible if my actions caused you to rethink releasing any extras you have. Ulitmately it's your decision, but I just wanted to let you know I adore your writing and would read any scrap of it. Thanks.

Cynthia Hand said...

Aw, Jessica, now you have me feeling bad for being grumpy! Grumpy authors are the worst, aren't we? I do like the idea of there being a centralized place for you to find talk about content, like Goodreads. It was the review part of that process that made me feel weird this morning. But I totally understand the desire to put something there for other people to find. *Muses for a while.* Decides I was being fussy when it should be no big deal. *Decides Brodi is right to tell me to just cover my ears and sing lalalalala! as soon as the work leaves my hands.

Sorry if I've distressed you, Jessica. I will continue to release deleted scenes, I promise. :)

Liz said...

1st off...Greetings from Boring!

2nd...Please, please, PUH-LEASE keep sharing! Your books are amazing and you have such a gift!

I can totally picture who you're talking about on Goodreads...they're part of the "If you don't have anything nice to say...come sit by me!" crowd - AKA aspiring (frustrated)authors who speak without thinking.

That may sound insensitive...but as a fellow "wanna be" (though not nearly as frustrated as they are)...I vote for the continued sharing - for those of us you've captivated with your stories - and I'd be willing to bet we outnumber the other guys!! :D

Not to mention....its so great to get glimpses of the whole story! Please continue to post...!

Anonymous said...

please give out more deleted scenes, teasers, extras, whatever u can...keeps a book-freak like me on my toes, and makes the wait much more bearable:)Love Ur Books:D

Anonymous said...

I think extended/deleted/bonus scenes are awesome. I understand that in many cases they were cut for a reason, space, rhythm etc. but it’s great to get the opportunity to see more of our favourite characters. I don’t think they should be rated, I feel they are gifts from the author and should be appreciated as such.
While I do love extended and deleted scenes what I absolutely adore is scenes from another pov (esp the males) it’s just really nice to see in their heads, their take on what was going on, and getting a different view on the main character :)

Anonymous said...

I am significantly OLDER than the rest of your typical readers, but I will say I read and LOVED your books. Any extra bits that were excluded but yet are being made public are for the sole entertainment of those who ENJOY your stories. Those who choose to read these 'bits' anyway, and yet are not fans, their reviews should be considered null. Keep up the good work, forget about the non-fans, they don't matter. Personally, I would LOVE to see your books become a film :) I look forward to the third installment! Yours, Angelique

Anonymous said...

Cynthia, I think you are very smart to not burden yourself with worry over reviews. Everyone is so different, and there will always be lovers and haters and the middle of the roader's. Even the most popular books out there have scathing hate reviews. If we as the reader love your work, then all that you are doing is essentially for us. We love it all and enjoy every bit of it, and I would even be upset if you changed a character to please a reviewer who doesn't like your work. Then those of us who love it would hate it! LOL. So there is simply no such thing as pleasing everyone. Just do your thing and those of us who love your work will be your biggest fans.

Anonymous said...

Dear Cynthia, please, give out more deleted scenes. Your books are great, lovely, addictive ^^ and I'm with you about the reviewing. I think you shouldn't focus too much on it, be truthful to your story and we'll keep loving it.

If you kill Tucker you'll kill me xD Please, be nice to him!