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?