To Cut or Not to Cut

Many of us are faced with this question – to cut or not to cut. 

Editing is such sweet sorrow. LOL

Editing is a difficult process.  When we are the editors of our own work, it is three times as difficult.  How easy it is to read someone else’s work and advise them what to cut. We cut through their works with the precision of a surgeon at times, showing easily which section needs to be amputated. Other times, we use the slash and burn method where we haphazardly cut bits and pieces in order to create a more cohesive work of art.

Imagine if you were an artist – a painter, drawer, or sculptor. (or another visual arts artist)  Cutting a section of a painting would seem like cutting off a piece of your own body – the arm, or heaven forbid a head. How could your work of art survive such a manipulation? And yet, we do this all the time when we write and rewrite. We take beautiful scenes – some tender and romantic, others funny and inspiring and clip them willy-nilly from our manuscripts. Oh, sometimes we can’t quite part with them and we send them to a folder on our computers so the dissection is not as painful.  We have all done this. Usually it is because someone else has read our work of art and has deemed that particular scene to the dung heap.  Of course, they tell you “it’s really quite brilliant, but unnecessary”.  “It doesn’t move the scene along, no matter how charming” or “do you really need those characters in here?”

Come now, we’ve all heard those words, or read them on our manuscripts.  Your scene will be tighter and flow better if you just got rid of that scene.  You cringe to hear someone tell you to cut off your baby’s arm or leg. You are certain your manuscript will not be complete without that essential scene.

Then, much to your amazement, you read the scene without it. You ponder it. You think it just might work.  You read it again. Ah, the critique partner might be on to something.  It does seem to flow much better.  Several days later, you read it again, and for some strange reason, you cannot even imagine the new scene with the old one still attached. You smile as the story flows better.

Then something really bizarre happens – you actually start to write a different scene to take its place.

Uh, oh, you say – this won’t work at all.  How can you add to something when you just cut from it?

This is the conundrum that has puzzled many an excellent writer.  We just cannot leave it alone.  We cut, we add. We cut, we add some more.  Sometimes it’s the word count that drives us to add more. We keep looking at the bottom of our computer screen (you know the section on the lower left hand side) and think – okay I need to add so many more words before this is finished.
Before computers it was the page count. We would keep on typing until we reached the magical 400 pages. Now, it’s all about the word count.

Remember that scene you cut?  Sometimes, because of this word count, we actually bring out the deleted scene and polish it off, once more adding it to the story.

I know authors who are the master of cutting scenes and just leaving them on the floor. I want to be like them when I grow up.  I have to admit I have become less and less attached to those deleted scenes as I grow as a writer. It’s like the blankie you had as a child.  At the time, you are certain you cannot live without it. Your day would be miserable if you had to part with it. Now, as a grown up you wonder how you ever walked around with that blankie for all those years.  The same is true of your novel’s pages. You cannot image parting with those little gems of jocularity or sensual scenes of sexual stimulation.  Then, as you mature as an author, you realize the silliness of holding on to something that will merely hold you back as an author.  Cutting now, does not seem like such a bad thing.

The true growth of an author does not only know what to cut, but what to add.  We can talk about that next time.

Happy writing,

Spring Fling in Chicago

As a member of Chicago-North, I could not help but comment on this fabulous blog.  You might think this is a biased commentary, but having attended the conference several times, as well as other conferences across the country over the years, I feel completely competent in commenting with a certain degree of objectivity.  (I promise not to mention too many times how much I adore this city and how much fun it is to live here and do things).

I just received notice on my loop about this blog.  Now, first let me stipulate that I have been to the Spring Fling site before and perused it, but this is a classy blog with interviews with several visiting agents and editors.  For anyone who is planning on attending Spring Fling, this is a MUST visit!  Just click on Spring Fling Blog to open the gateway to great information.

So, what will you find on this blog?

1. Interviews with Shauna Summers from Bantam Dell, Scott Egan from Greyhaus Literary Agency, Ginger Clark from Curtis Brown, LTD., Martin Biro from Kensington, and Sara Megibow from Nelson Literary Agency.  These entries were written by Clara Kensie.
2. weather, airport, and other travel information - a very cute post written by Caroline Walters.

What I like about this blog so far, (because I can see there is a lot to add to it) is how easy you can connect to other information about Spring Fling.  You can register - which is still open until April 1st!!! The price is great, especially for people who have to travel far. And you get so much from Spring Fling.


The editors and agents who will attending - include the ones mentioned above, but also Tera Kleinfelter from Samhain Publishing, Megan Long from Harlequin (and if you entered the Fire and Ice contest - she is one of our final judges!!!! Now I know you want to come so you can meet her in person), Paige Wheeler from Folio Literary Management, LLC, Tessa Woodward from Avon Romance, and Cori Deyoe from 3 Seas Literary Agency (who is also one of our final judges for the Fire and Ice Contest).

Speaking of the Fire and Ice contest - the winners will be announced at the Spring Fling.  I am especially excited about this since I am the coordinator of the contest.  We have been quite busy these past weeks as the entries were coming in.  The finalists will be announced soon, and then those lucky authors will have their manuscripts sent to our final judges.  As I mentioned above - Cori Deyoe and Megan Long are both final judges for the Fire and Ice contest.  Personally, I think it would be fabulous to win the contest AND get to meet the person who felt your entry was the BEST!  Don't you want to come even  more now?


Now, I know you want to know who else is going to be there!!!!  Some of my absolute favorite authors in the world.

Sherrilyn Kenyon - who is NY Times bestselling author of paranormal fiction (although I consider her premier in romance - because who doesn't love a good romance? And while yes, she has delicious creatures in all her books, at the heart of each one is an excellent romance that keeps you turning the pages)  If you are like me, you could not wait to read Acheron's story and were not disappointed when it arrived.  I personally was thrilled to see a man reading it on the beach when I was in the Bahamas.

Mary Balogh - who is NT Times bestselling author of Regency romance.  Here again, I must add that while I am not the biggest fan of Regency romance novels, her books are so beautifully written that I do not think about reading Regency.  I choose her books because of how well they are written.  If I cannot put the book down, then you have a fan for life, whether it is Regency, medieval, or contemporary.

Simone Elkeles - who hails from Chicago-North herself, is a NY Times bestselling author of Young Adult fiction. Once again I must comment that I am not a reader of YA books, but Simone has a way of transcending that genre that keeps a reader captivated in the story.  After all, even as young girls, we were all attracted to the bad boys from school.  Admit it - you were the good girl who just could not keep her eyes off the boy who strolled in late to class, who snubbed his nose at authority but deep down had a heart of gold.


Since of course we are all going to Spring Fling to learn more (not just sell our books and meet our idols when it comes to writing), there are more workshops than you will be able to comfortably fit into your day unless you have figured out a way to clone yourself.

Workshops on Craft and Research Include:
Going Beyond Romance to Writing Love Stories
Man Talk
Packing in the WOW
How to Write it When You Can't Be There
Improv for Authors
Contest Diva to Published Author
From Cliches to Keepers
Can This Manuscript Be Saved
Ghost Hunting Through the Ages
What's Love Got to Do With It? Erotica for Beginners
Make Them Believe It
Transmedia Storytelling
Evil 101

Workshops on Business and Writer's Life:
Chat with Sherrilyn Kenyon
The Road to Becoming a New York Times Bestseller
Headliner Q and A
Agent and Editor Q and A
Fearless and Fun Platform Promotion
7 Sentences to a Practically Perfect Synopsis
The Author/Agent Relationship according to Mad Men
Rejection - A Love Story
Dissecting the Novel
Meet the Press on Common Ground: Media Tips, Tricks and Traps
How to Get (and Stay) Published And Live to Tell the Tale
Blog Book Tour Guide
Break into Publishing!
Self-Publish without Sacrificing Traditional Quality
Making a Career Out of Category
Charms for the Writing Life

Publishing Spotlights
Avon with Tessa Woodward
Ballatine Bantam Dell with Shauna Summers
Kensington with Martin Biro
Samhain with Tera Kleinfelter
Sourcebooks with Danielle Jackson

Fire and Ice
Here is a call out to all who entered the Fire and Ice contest.  Come to meet the editors and agents.  You have worked so hard on your manuscripts, that it's time to pitch them!  Keep in mind that if you are a finalist, you want to be at the reception to hear your name  being called out!  If you are not a finalist, that does not mean you do not have a great story.  Pitch your idea to one of the fabulous agents and editors and watch them bite!!!


There will be over 50 authors present.  Buy their book and get it signed.  Meet your favorite author and gush (yes I said gush, because we all gush when we meet someone we admire).

In conclusion - I hope I have given you more than enough reasons to check out the Chicago-North Spring Fling.  Don't just surf the site - sign up and have a great time in April.  Chicago is beautiful in the Spring.

Downton Abbey

Are any of you hooked on Downton Abbey?

This is one of those shows I stumbled across one night with my husband. He loves Netflix. He especially loves looking for different series and, since we both love period pieces, this one caught his attention.  To say the least, I am so glad it did. I have become a huge fan of the show.

I am not afraid to admit I am a Downton Abbey fanatic!

The estate, the real Highclere Castle in Hampshire, is stunning to behold. I want to travel to England just to stroll across the estate.  Don't you agree?

The show is an interesting peak into the aristocratic family of the Earl of Grantham and his wife, the Countess of Grantham.  Of course, one of my favorite characters is the Dowager Countess, played by Maggie Smith, who delivers her lines with just the right amount of smugness and wit that you cannot help but laugh out loud.

The attention to detail in the show with the characters, the settings, and the historical events is fabulous.  From the start of the show which highlights what happens to the family when the Titanic sinks and the heir presumptive dies.  Of course, the heir was supposed to marry the eldest daughter, but all of this changes now and an unknown cousin is brought into the family fold.

What I enjoy most about the show is the interplay between the aristocracy and the servants.  I love the way they all manipulate each other in such polite ways.  The servants who have their secret agendas and speak privately with the family in their attempts to wheedle things they want.  Of course, there's always the evil servants - the ones you love to hate like O'Brien or Thomas, who makes no bones about his machinations.

Being a historical author, allows me to look at the smaller details like the clothing, the furniture, and even the mannerisms with an eye of appreciation. I applaud the actors for their commitment in bringing this show to fans like me which such love. As a fan, I can see the actors truly love what they are doing.

If you have not seen the show, you have to check out Masterpiece Theater's Downton Abbey.

I really do not want to give too much away, because I want you to watch the show and see what I mean. Yet, at the same time, I cannot help but give you a few tidbits.

When World War I breaks out, even the aristocracy is touched by the tragedy.  The heir, Matthew, enlists in the war and, much to the surprise of the family feels strongly about his role.  Not being born to privilege, he sees no reason why he should not see battle like the men around him. He has fallen in love with Mary, the eldest daughter, even though she does not love him.  She has an arrogance about her which makes one wonder why anyone would fall in love with her, and yet, she is considered the great beauty of the three sisters, and men constantly fall in love with her.  She holds her feelings inside and does not realize until it is too late how she really feels about Matthew.  By that time, Matthew has accepted she does not love him and has moved on with his life.  OR has he really?  This is the stuff of a great romance.

But let's get back to the war.  Downton Abbey becomes a convalescent home for officers (because of course they cannot open their doors to the common man to recuperate).  Matthew's mother suggests the home be used for the officers - since there are so many empty rooms.  The earl of Grantham agrees, but Matthew's mother is quite the administrator, which rubs the Countess of Grantham the wrong way.  What I found fascinating, was how quickly the countess managed to secure control of her home away from Isobel Crawley (Matthew's mother).  She does it in such a way that even a general would applaud her delicate subterfuge.

Watch the show!!!  See how politely everything is done.  Watch the emotions on the actors' faces as they manipulate the scenes to their best advantage.  I think you will agree - Downton Abbey is the show to see.

Vivienne (who feels she must have, at some time in her "other life" been around to see Highclere Castle)