Wednesday, March 25, 2009

An Outtake from MLAS

Martha, in the comment trail, asked about scenes that don't make it into the final book.

As a generality, there are Good Reasons why scenes quietly disappear from the ms before the Editor ever sees them.
The scene is boring.
Or it twiddles off down a line of minor plotting, instead of telling the love story.
Or it is talking heads conveying information.
Or all three.

Here below is a scene that got written
and then a draft or two later got grubbed up by the roots and tossed out.

The scene is not dreadful in and of itself. It explains why Jess, (our heroine in MLAS,) is knee deep in kimchee with the British Government.
But we do not write scenes to 'explain things'.

The stage action I kept, because I need the little jigsaw piece of scene to transition from one place to another. The action shows up, much modified, in MLAS as pages 152 to 158. But the version that hit the book is all about the love story instead of suspense plot and intrigue.

Below, you're looking at Second Draft work, not Final Draft work.
There's lots of awkwardness and bad phrasing.
And I've left in my 'notes to myself'.

*************** See the out-take here ******************
It begins ....

Adrian was propped against the wall in the stuffy closet they used as a listening post, reading from a black, bound notebook. He crooked a finger in invitation and kept reading. "Close the door."

There wasn't room for three in the cubbyhole. He slid in behind the table, the rack of pistols on the wall poking into his back. Trevor, the spy in training, sat at the table, his ear pressed to a brass ear trumpet that emerged from the wall and wrote, scribbling fast. The only light in the room came from the dark lantern at his elbow. Three sides of that were closed, the fourth open. In the bright oblong it cast, his pencil made a manic, dancing shadow across the page. Three books, like the one Adrian held, lay to his left. Another dozen were stacked and ready.

This was where the British Service watched and listened to what went on in the library. Jess was right -- the walls were full of rats.

... and it ends ....

"You and Josiah are playing games. Jess isn't."

"Then it's time she did." Adrian was still a moment. "Josiah knows what I am. Eventually, Jess will. Do you know, there are times I do not find being Head of Section at all amusing. Shut up, now. When I open this they can hear us."


  1. (sorry, not a comment about this post...) I just saw you were nominated for a Rita, too! Congratulations :)

  2. I loved reading this outtake, but I can understand how it wouldn't work in the larger context of the book as a whole.

    A lot of books (and movies for that matter) suffer from indulgent editing. I won't name names, but...longer isn't always better. Thanks for giving us this insight into the editing process!

  3. @ Phyllis -- I am going to post that on the blog, as soon as I figger out a way to say it.

    WHAT a list of contenders in that category. Big guns, every one of them.

    @ Kat -- You see the problem with it exactly.

    I think we sometimes have to go down these wrong paths and write 'em out of our system.

    Or at least, I do. It's the not plotting well thingum.

  4. Jo,
    Thanks for posting this draft. I wouldn't say it's an outtake so much as an earlier draft of something I clearly recognize. And you are right, what is in the book is better, tighter.
    What's fascinating is seeing what was, and knowing what it became. It gives me hope for my own stuff.