I have three friends I’ve kept in touch with on and off for fifty (yes, 50) years. One is Jane, who comments here nearly every day, bless her! Another is Kathie, who was MIA for a long time but dug me up on Facebook, bless her! The other is Beth, who kept the connection through our marriages, moves, children, and assorted whatnot, bless her!
ANYWAY, Beth blew through town the other day and brought this treasure to me.
Those cross-throughs and insertions show you why I was happy to switch to computers. Although the cross-throughs and insertions are less buggy than any electronic Track Changes you care to mention, they make a smooth read-through im-freaking-possible.
In scanning the original, I was surprised by two things:
- how much was exactly the same in the published version
- how much was different from the published version
Not all of the changes were technically necessary. Some of them, I’m at a loss to justify now. In rereading, a lot of what I changed seems unobjectionable, even superior to the final text. But I do remember that, on reading the whole piece, the pace and flow of conversations, scenes, sections, and the whole needed adjusting.
I cut a perfectly good subplot with three characters I liked because it complicated without enriching.
I changed the ending somewhat because I thought of a way to ratchet up the conflict/tension. But, reading the old ending, I wonder if I did the right thing.
But I did. I know I did. And, if I didn’t, that’s too bad; what’s done is done. No, I did the right thing. The original ending was too crabbed and cramped and wham-bam-over.
See, that’s the hard part of writing. Not all the stuff you write, but all the stuff you have to unwrite. Dang.
Maybe I can use that orphaned subplot in another story…. Waste not, want not.
And guess what else was in there, in the back of the DEAD GUY manuscript? The short story that was the first wee teeny seed of SIDESHOW IN THE CENTER RING! I wondered what happened to that, and now I know — Beth was keeping it safe for me! It has almost nothing in common with the finished book, not even the name of the planet it took place on. Oh, HELL, yeah, I can cannibalize that and get a whole new story out of it.
Thank you, Beth — I feel like you handed me a box of toys!
A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: Read Charles Dickens’ alternate ending to GREAT EXPECTATIONS.