Deleted Scenes and Director’s Cuts
Remember my scheme to make millions of dollars by offering my books for sale on Amazon Prime Day? Alas, it didn’t work out quite as well as I’d hoped.
The most likely reason is that my both new content and my sales were centered around a series that isn’t terribly popular. Not because it’s awful, but it was some of my first published work, which shows; and it doesn’t fit well into a particular genre (it’s meant to be historical fantasy, but isn’t quite fantastical enough).
Before you say, “What’d you go and do a fool thing like that for?” allow me to say that I was recovering from the plague (not literally, but sometimes it felt like that) and I had to work with what I had. I had one other short that might have worked, but it’s a standalone and I wrote it when I had no idea how to structure short stories. So I’m saving that one for later, possibly after it’s been through a couple rounds of editing.
But I’ve been thinking. Most indie writers are told that series sell, which makes sense, in a culture of binge-watching and binge-reading. More specifically, series sell when you add to them regularly. This also makes sense. The series will rapidly become a long-runner, you don’t have time to forget the details of his own world, and rabid fans can mark the next release on their calendar, if you publish both quickly and on a schedule.
Okay, that all sounds reasonable. But, what happens when real life intrudes, and you have a deadline but no content? Do you apologize to the readers and promise to publish the next novel as soon as possible? That’s one option. Or you can do what I did, and dash off a short story in that universe, call it a ‘deleted scene’, and publish it on time.
I’ve discovered some minor pitfalls with the second approach. The first is, unless you’re very skilled at planning, there’s a high chance the deleted scene will contradict canon in some way. I discovered, when I was writing More Courage Than Sense, that I had previously noted, in A Kingdom of Glass, that Zara had never killed a person before, thus accounting for the emotional aftershocks of a street fight. The problem is that she’s attacked in More Courage Than Sense, yet I couldn’t have her kill the assailant unless I wanted to do some very weird ret-conning. I solved the problem, eventually, but Zara is not as active in her rescue as I would have liked, and that goes some way toward undermining the structure of the story. As with many bits of The Garia Cycle, it’s not awful, but it’s not quite as good as I wanted it to be.
The second problem with adding deleted scenes is that, unless you’re very careful, they can look a lot like fanfiction. Fanfiction is easy to write because the readers are already familiar with the characters, so you don’t need to add a lot of background. But a reader who stumbles upon a deleted scene, with no further introduction to that universe, is going to be very confused if you don’t explain who these people are. But if you take up too much of the story with background, your established fans are going to get bored. Have fun striking that balance, and if you manage it, I’d love to know how because I don’t.
And of course, you have to have an established series in the first place. Some series don’t lend themselves to adding deleted scenes; it’s easier to just write another novel. If the books can be read out of order (cozies, thrillers, a lot of pulp-type series) it might not be a candidate for adding deleted scenes. On the other hand, each universe is different, and you might find inspiration in a character’s off-hand mention of one of their previous adventures that didn’t quite make it onto the page the first time around.
The point of all this waffle is that I had an interesting though only moderately productive foray into the world of deleted scenes. I’m going to continue writing them for The Garia Cycle, because there’s so much material, but I think it might be better to write them, finish the series, then release the deleted scenes, possibly as a collection. Less chance of contradicting canon, that way.
Talk among yourselves. Have you ever published deleted scenes or a ‘director’s cut’ of your books? Was it successful? As a reader, do you find it annoying to switch back and forth between full length novels and shorter stories?
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