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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?

 

Page image courtesy of Pixabay

14 Comments
  1. It must be the zeitgeist or something, because I had several “deleted scenes” occur to me the other day. I don’t actually want deleted scenes. I want the rest of the plot to my WIP, thank you very much, but they might serve some good if I write them.

    This idea is not original to me, but it seems like a good one: offer deleted scenes on your newsletter. Then they only go to rabid fans, and it incentivizes people to join your newsletter.

    July 24, 2019
    • Blake Smith #

      I kinda like the newsletter idea. I mean, I’d have to start a newsletter, first, but…

      July 24, 2019
  2. Reziac #

    Some years back I actually wrote a crossover fanfic featuring my nonhuman MC — basically dumped him on Earth and let him fend for himself, just to see what he did. Learned more about his species in that short than I had in 7+ novels (well, 3 done and 4.5 in various stages of dysmanglement). Extremely useful for pointing out where I need more species-specific detail.

    July 24, 2019
  3. Some times I have novel sized stuff that just don’t quite work, but there’re some good parts . . . so I yank chunks out and kick them into something that comes close to standing alone.

    And when it’s something badly out of order in the series timeline, well, that can work better in a collection, especially with a bit of embroidery around it to sort of connect the stories. In my most recent I had a couple of people changing the formats of these old reports, with a bit of romance and a military invasion in between stories.

    July 24, 2019
    • Stanley Miller #

      I normally skip individual short stories, they are just as much work to grab for my Kindle as a longer work and take up a KU slot for just a few minutes of reading. Now as a collection I’m much more interested, and one done as Pam did above (which I read) works very well.

      The main thing I’d suggest is that you pick a place in your series order to stick the collection so folks reading the series get it offered up at some point as “next in series” and can get it with a click and have the Kindle app also allow you to return the previous book opening a KU slot for it.

      If I grab a book in mid-series as it looked interesting the next thing I do is go back and grab the first book and then read the series to the end. I’m lazy, please make that easy for me to do. 🙂

      July 25, 2019
  4. Mulan was really not Chinese; she was a north of China person, a Sarbi tribesmember, fighting Jan-Jou nomads from even farther out on the steppe. Her name is not Chinese for magnolia; it is Muklan, a Sarbi male warrior name that means something like stag, elk, or even unicorn.

    July 24, 2019
    • Sorry. I love Language Log, and this was a great factoid that seemed on theme.

      July 24, 2019
  5. Draven #

    i have an entire screenplay that became a deleted scene- it was just incorporated as history to another story.

    But…

    I hate the director’s cut of Bladerunner. i prefer the voiceover.

    July 24, 2019
  6. I have a “cut content” file when writing. Occasionally, I wander off into weird places, and get into things that I look back and go “no, this won’t work.”

    I have this pretty awesome description of one character’s own issues (“forest of obsidian razor blades surrounding a full cistern” is something that I have to use again soon), but it didn’t work where it belonged. So, it gets cut.

    I don’t think I’d do a “deleted scenes” thing, because these are tangents. I think I include the “director’s notes,” including the description of character inspirations (“Take every character David Tenant ever did, put in a blender, secure the lid, hit frappe, pour in to a David Tennant-sized mold, bake at 350 for thirty minutes, and use ginger frosting.”) and some details that I don’t think I’ll ever quite write about but should be talked about…

    July 24, 2019
    • Blake Smith #

      I do something similar; every story has a file called, ‘extra bits,’ where I stash all of my notes, character descriptions, and random tangents that don’t fit the story. Hey, you never know what might come in handy.

      July 24, 2019
      • And, some of the quips are good and I hate losing work.

        July 24, 2019
  7. Ran across “deleted” scenes from my first novel. Realized I needed to flesh stuff out from other areas of the city where things were going to hell. Wrote them and slotted them into the timeline. Afterwards I yanked them all out. Will save them for another project after I clean them up a bit.

    July 25, 2019
  8. I’ve got an entire two deleted books. Because the series needed to end before it ended, so I stopped it, wrapped up the most important threads, and put it out the door. I don’t think it would be kind to readers to do a “director’s cut”.

    Now another book? I may be having to do a major cut and rewrite. In that case, we’ll have to see.

    July 25, 2019
  9. Mary #

    One great thing about having a muse that likes things short is that you don’t have to worry about canon.

    July 25, 2019

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