A writer can’t get overly attached to his or her words.
Sometimes a passage is perfect, and then the needs of the novel change. Since the story must always come first, the only option is to cut. It can be painful, but a novelist must be ruthless. Below are some of the cuts that hurt the most:
The original beginning of the Shadowed Path Trilogy
When I started writing the Shadowed Path Trilogy, the first book was originally called The Tattooed Runes, and the story began with Honus. When I later revised the book to devote the first three chapters to Yim, this opening scene no longer fit. I cut it reluctantly, because I felt it captured Honus perfectly.
Although spring’s cold rains soaked the Turmgeist Forest, in the gloom beneath the hemlocks dead vegetation crowded the muddy pathway. A man hid among the plants and patiently waited. His cloak was sewn with tatters that blended with the drab leaves. His face was daubed with clay, so it also matched the foliage.
A sword lay before the crouching man, unsheathed and ready. Leaves covered the blade, so its gleam wouldn’t betray the ambush. The weapon, once a nobleman’s prized possession, was marred where its jewels had been pried from the hilt. Its current owner’s interest in those ornaments lay only in the price they had fetched. A practical man, he valued the weapon solely for its utility. Its expensive, marbled blade was razor keen and made even deadlier by the application of poison. Quick death, meted out inelegantly, was the custom of his trade.
The bandit heard footsteps on the path. Although his quarry was out of sight, experienced ears told the robber much. He detected a single traveler. A man, he surmised. By the noise he’s making, I’d say he’s fleeing something. The bandit heard a sword rattle in its scabbard and grinned. Weapons fetched good prices. The sounds grew louder and the man prepared to spring.
The source of the footsteps appeared—a bulky, dark-haired youth scarcely out of his teens. Yet as soon as the youth appeared, the grin vanished from the bandit’s face, for the lad was accompanied by an older man who walked with the silent grace of a tiger. Like a tiger, his face was marked. Recognizing what the man was, the bandit froze.
The youth trod on unaware of his observer, but his companion’s eyes fixed on the spy. They were pale blue and stood out in his heavily tattooed face like twin moons in a dark sky. As they drew ever nearer, the bandit felt powerless to break from their gaze. He found neither alarm nor anger in those eyes—only the resignation of a weary executioner.
The tattooed man’s hands moved so quickly they seemed to blur. Mingled with the blur was a flash of metal. There was a sound like a cabbage being split, followed by the rustle of something heavy rolling in the leaves. By the time the youth turned toward the noise, his companion was wiping blood from his blade.
“Shit!” said the young man “What was that, Honus?”
“Just an animal, Yaun.”
Yaun drew his sword and began to poke about the undergrowth. “Leave it,” said Honus, not breaking his stride. “It’s nothing you’d want to eat.”
Cuts from the original text of Sea of Time
I cut forty-two thousand words for my second science fiction novel to give it a much faster pace. Con Clement’s journey through time spans 535 millions years, and originally, the societies of the 19th, 27th, and 31st centuries were portrayed in great detail. The final book emphasized action over setting, and to do that, many passages were cut to shortened the text. Here are the three that I miss the most:
From Chapter Three. At this point, Con Clements is a businesswoman in the Montana Territory. She has just received some extremely alarming news. The year is 1881.
She rose and paced about the room. The more she thought, the more her agitation grew. When it became unbearable, Con put on her coat and bonnet, then opened the door to the outer office. Her expression alarmed her staff, and the five men stared at her in bewilderment.
“Mr. Patrick,” said Con, “You keep a horse, don’t you?”
“May I borrow it? I’ll have my stable hand return it before afternoon.”
“I don’t have a proper saddle for a lady.”
“It doesn’t matter,” replied Con. “My need is urgent.”
“Then you’re welcome to her, Ma’am. I keep her at Decker’s Livery.”
“Thank you,” said Con. “I’m obliged to you.”
After Con rushed out the door, a junior clerk grinned. “Ah’d like ta see her riding a horse in that dress.”
“Then you’re no gentleman,” said Matthew Tompkins.
“Ah reckon Ah ain’t,” said the junior clerk. “But it’d shore be a sight.”
From Chapter Five. Con’s husband, Rick, has been robbed and murdered. She is leaving 19th century Montana to alter history and restore his life:
Covered with pristine snow, the forested hills were lovely. When she and Rick had first arrived, Con had fallen in love with the wild and rugged land. Even after it turned deadly, she responded to its grandeur. The snow and the cold were innocent killers. They might freeze a man, but they would never rifle his pockets.
From Chapter Thirteen. Con has traveled to the future to take a dead woman’s place. In this scene her boss, Roberto Peters, is showing off his mansion. The setting is outside Chicago in the year 2693.
Despite the house’s outer appearance, its interior was thoroughly modern. There was no art on the walls, which displayed subtle patterns of shade and hue that changed as Con moved about. The ceilings glowed softly, though their luminosity varied for dramatic effect. In one room, the lighting drew Con’s eyes to two chairs and a matching table. They were a set of plastic patio furniture. Curious, she approached them.
“Don’t sit on the chairs,” warned Roberto. “They’re antiques. Genuine, late twentieth century Wal-Mart. Those are the only known examples.”
Con delicately touched the formerly green plastic that had turned dull and gray with age. “You have such nice things,” she said.