Leftovers Anyone?

Hi gang, Craig with you again. Somehow, I wound up with Black Friday this year. I struggled to come up with a relevant post. I like the name Black Friday, but I’ve already done naming tricks. I think I finally came up with something.

For anyone outside the USA, yesterday was our Thanksgiving holiday. This is the one that seems to be all about turkey dinner with family, and lots of football. Of course, in 2020, that might have been a bit watered down. The point for today is that we generally have a lot of leftovers.

Writers have leftovers, too. These are little bits and pieces that wound up being cut from our stories in the editing phase. They could be supporting characters that we managed to make quite interesting, or even a bit of setting that got eliminated with a scene.

You really should be saving this stuff. Just like we don’t throw away hundreds of dollars worth of food, we learn to recycle it. I swear one year I’m going to skip the turkey soup and make chili verde from my turkey.

I’ll take a stab at an example here. I have a character named Jason Fogg. I first wrote him into a trunk novel many years ago, and that’s where he stayed. Forgotten and moldering away with the rest of my crap story. Then, one day, I decided to produce a book of short stories. I liked Jason, and decided to give him a facelift. He earned a short story and people seemed to like him. When I put out my second book of short stories, Jason got included again. This might shock my long term fans, but Jason has been published in more stories than any character I’ve ever written. (Soon to be equaled by Serang, and surpassed by Lizzie St. Laurent.)

Okay, I drifted a bit, but the point was that Jason was a recycling project. I could have left him buried away forever, but turned him into something useful.

I don’t know what genres you all write, but you might have a meet-cute that just didn’t work after the characters evolved. Maybe there was a cool car chase that really didn’t belong in your political mystery. Keep that stuff. It might be years later, but it could find a new home where it’s a better fit.

This is related to my old advice about living documents. Instead of copy and paste, you do a cut and paste. It’s gone from your manuscript, but placed in storage for another day.

I like to imagine L. Frank Baum beating his head against the desk and telling himself the flying monkeys just aren’t working in his Western story. Then one morning he wakes up and goes, “These guys would be cool in Oz.”

For those who celebrate, I hope you all had a happy and safe Thanksgiving. Black Friday seems to have been destroyed with advance sales and the Internet, but it’s still going on. If you go out today, take precautions in light of the virus who shall not be named.

I wonder how leftover Thanksgiving calzones would be? Hmmmm?

43 thoughts on “Leftovers Anyone?

  1. I haven’t had any leftovers yet, but I’m on the point of doing so with my WIP. I’ve got a major chunk that I’m thinking of cutting out, but it’s too good to scrap completely, so into the fridge it may end up as leftovers for another day. We’ll wait and see I guess.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A fantastic post, Craig. You make a really good point about characters, scenes, and plots that may wind up in the scrap pile. You never know when they’ll stick their head out of the pile and demand a story! 🙂 I used to make turkey enchiladas with leftover turkey meat and they were awesome!

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  3. Terrific post, Craig. Shawnee’s a leftover character. I always hoped she’d make it into a publishable book, but I’d trunked four of her novels. And yes, I agree. Never delete anything. You never know when it can work in a new story. Hope you had a nice Thanksgiving!

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  4. I’m a big believer in never deleting anything. I cut and paste and keep unused scenes and characters. I often dig back through those random bits and pieces for inspiration and have resurrected a character or two which didn’t quite fit in their original work.
    I loved your comparison with turkey leftovers. Great post, Craig. I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

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  5. Clever analogy of leftovers! I don’t cut any scenes–I write too lean and need them all, but I do re-use characters I write and like. And I have more trunk novels than anyone should from my early efforts–all bad. We make gumbo with leftover turkey. We look forward to that as much as the turkey, maybe more:)

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  6. I never delete anything. Everything that doesn’t make the final draft goes into a file. You never know when it might be useful. And my secondary characters have been known to pop up again, too. That’s a great idea, Craig.

    I hope you had a wonderful holiday. The chili and the calzone sound like great ideas. I’ll be putting on a pot of soup soon. Have a great day!

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  7. I do keep pieces that I liked but which didn’t ‘belong’ – trouble is, I’ve not put them in a folder for easy retrieval. Perhaps that would be a good next step – thanks.

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  8. Pingback: Leftovers Anyone? | Welcome to Harmony Kent Online

  9. A great post, Craig. Recycling story ideas is a great thing to do. I have done it and created full length short stories from pieces I cut from Through the Nethergate. I did the same with a few ideas from A Ghost and His Gold that my developmental editor forced me to cut out [in a very nice way]. She is always right, even if it breaks my heart at the time. Have a great weekend.

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