An Unexpected Treasure #amwriting

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.

MitchMSKnow what that is? Guess. Go on, guess. Never mind; I’ll tell you: That’s the original, hand-written manuscript of A DEAD GUY AT THE SUMMERHOUSE.

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:

  1. how much was exactly the same in the published version
  2. 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.



I was born in Louisville, Kentucky, but now live in the woods in southern Indiana. Though I only write fiction, I love to read non-fiction. The more I learn about this world, the more fantastic I see it is.

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One thought on “An Unexpected Treasure #amwriting

    • Author

      Marian Allen

      October 19, 2015 at 8:06am

      I should have posted it on Food Day, because it’s Awesome Sauce!

      Permalink  ⋅ Reply
  1. Jane

    October 19, 2015 at 9:45am

    Marian, I, too, am so happy not to have to type a fair copy anymore. Or correct a handwritten MS. Yechh!

    Great save, Beth!

    And thanks for the manuscripts you saved for me, too. I am too afraid to read them right now. Terrified, actually. Will I see anything of the me now writer? Will I see too much? Argghh!

    Permalink  ⋅ Reply
    • Author

      Marian Allen

      October 19, 2015 at 10:36am

      Oh, geez, remember trying to transcribe one of those handwritten, scribble-scrahbble monstrosities? Then you found an insert on the floor and had to go back about fifty pages and type it all again WITH the insert? ~sigh~ Yeah, computers have their bugs — I mean features — but I probably would have no hair today if it weren’t for word processing.

      Permalink  ⋅ Reply
      • Jane

        October 20, 2015 at 10:16am

        When I met Somtow in Florida, he was in the middle of writing his book about the Japanese being descended from whales rather than people. His MS was cut and pasted together so much as to resemble a ransom note. I looked at it and wondered why I just hadn’t gone with that!

        Permalink  ⋅ Reply

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