When I was a kid, I wanted to be an author when I grew up. I can remember spending countless hours hunched over my little notebooks (at first) and then, eventually, over typewriters, putting out short stories and my first early attempts at novels. That was well over thirty years ago, and so much has changed since then. More than just the technology (because today, all of my writing is done on the computer), my way of both storytelling and crafting a story has changed.
Back in those days, my writing style was very linear. This was more of a practical matter than a creative one. With handwritten manuscripts or those produced on a typewriter, it’s very much a one-shot deal. If you want to make changes, use White-out or a red pen. If you want to add, cut, or move scenes, it usually involved the physical act of cutting apart printed pages and taping them together as you wanted them, or worse — rewriting an entire page (or pages — shudder!) altogether.
Because of this, I didn’t do a lot of revision work as I went along, and once a plot point or idea was on paper, it was the same as being set in stone to me. I don’t remember that this ever bothered me too much, so I suspect at that point, that was simply the way my muse worked. Today, it’s a hell of a lot more complicated.
For every manuscript I write now, I keep what’s called a “Might-Us-Might-Not” (or “MUMN”) file. It’s a Word document full of deleted scenes, or scenes I’ve reworked in the actual manuscript. Sometimes I never use the passages found in my MUMN files, but other times, I’ve found it to be an extremely helpful practice. I juggle scenes a lot now; what seems like a good idea when I’m writing it may not feel like a good “fit” once I’ve finished it — but later on in the manuscript, I discover the perfect place where it could work. Sometimes the simple revising act of shuffling scenes around can change the whole direction of the plot, or add some needed conflict or tension, or even further enhance ongoing character development. Every once in a blue moon, I can even take a scene I’ve wound up cutting from one manuscript and finding a way to make it work in another. For example, the pivotal fight scene between Brandon Noble and his brother, Caine, in “Dark Thirst” was a recycled version of a deleted fight scene from another book I’d written in a completely different genre, the high fantasy “Book of Dragons.”
I suppose it makes me a hoarder of sorts, this habit of keeping deleted scenes for potential recycling. But today, for example, while I was working on “In the Heart of Darkness,” I was able to resuscitate a scene from my MUMN file, plus do some strategic rearranging of some scenes in which I’d liked the writing, but not the original placement in the manuscript, and make it all come together seamlessly. Sometimes it doesn’t work out so well, but today it “clicked” for me when I was finished, and I’m pretty pleased with the result. I’m hoping readers will be, too — and I’m hoping to have the book ready and released by Halloween!
Every writer has his or her own habits and quirks. The MUMN file has, with time, become one of my most beneficial. So there’s my writing tip du jour, LOL.