This is, of course, a euphemism for being willing to recognize which parts of your work are, well, self-indulgent tripe that needs to be cut. For some reason, it’s often the bits we’re most emotionally attached to in our work that needs to be deleted. I suspect it has something to do with that very attachment that makes those parts not good enough. We’re too invested in the meaning to ourselves to have perspective on how it contributes to the story.
Regardless, we all learn at some point to kill our babies.
What this means for most of us, though, is that we delete the offending passage or section and paste it into a document we save. We call it “Outtakes” maybe, and we keeps it forever, Precious. No, the baby isn’t dead, it’s just…Sleeping. I’m sure there are some ruthless, emotionally balanced authors out there who really, truly delete and forever nuke their babies. But many of us have them, little shriveled corpses in the basements of our laptops, that – who knows? – could one day be reanimated! The baby could live again!
The other day I re-watched Notting Hill, one of my all-time favorite movies. (I know this is my second reference to a movie rewatch. I have this Cold Virus That Will Not Die, and so I’ve been spending a lot of time reclining on the couch, alas.) At any rate, I love this movie so much, that I own it. This time I noticed there are special features and, basking in the glow of the Notting Hill love, I watched those, too. They included Deleted Scenes.
Hot Damn! MOAR Notting Hill to love!
The thing is? Those deleted scenes really sucked. They deserved to be deleted. I don’t know what went wrong with them, but they weren’t in line with the crispness of the rest of the movie. Whoever made the decision to cut those scenes exercised excellent judgment. Afterwards, I was kind of sorry I’d watched them. They diluted my glow ever so slightly with their badness.
And it made me think of all the babies I’ve been saving, just in case I can reanimate them. I’ve noticed a blog trend lately where writers are posting deleted sections of their novels or manuscripts. Kind of a fun thing – like the deleted scenes in the special features – and everyone is always looking for blog topics. Still, I’m wondering if it’s a good idea. If something isn’t good enough to stay in the story, it probably shouldn’t be read by anyone besides your CPs and your editor – who are likely the ones who told you to get rid of it in the first place.
After all, none of us really wants anyone to know about all those zombie babies in the basement. It might look bad.
I’m thinking mine might deserve a decent burial.