Keep a ‘cut file’
Connecticut author and actress Amy Oestreicher published her memoir, My Beautiful Detour: An Unthinkable Journey from Gutless to Grateful (Amy Oestreicher, 2019). In it, she describes her experiences of sexual abuse, organ failure in her senior year of high school, a coma and 28 surgeries, and six years of being unable to eat or drink. Oestreicher cut several chapters in the revision process.
“It’s hard work,” she says. “No one wants to kill their baby, but once I did cut chapters, I could see a clear narrative flow in the story. As painful as it was, deleting chapters was liberating, as well.”
One of the sections she cut became the essay “Why I Didn’t Testify Against the Man Who Abused Me Before My Coma,” published on various sites, including Huffington Post, The Mighty, Elite Daily, and Sammiches & Psych Meds. “Ultimately, I did not include this essay because the 532-page memoir covered an expansive amount of trauma, and it came to a point where I had to be selective,” she explains.
Oestreicher keeps a “cut file” for pieces she deleted from her memoir. “You’ve got to study what publications are looking for and how you might fashion a cut piece into an article,” she says. Like Findling, she stays current on the needs of print and online magazines that might be a good fit for work that didn’t make it into her book.
Build a bigger audience
Illinois author Rebecca Johns Trissler subscribes to literary magazines and submits pieces from her cut file when she finds a good fit. When she realized a chapter of her novel Icebergs (Bloomsbury, 2007) was taking her story in the wrong direction, she reworked it to stand alone and searched for a suitable editor. The piece appeared in Chicago Tribune’s literary magazine, Printers Row.
“Publishing cut pieces or excerpts allows you to get your work out into more places and build a bigger audience.”
Trissler notes that while novel chapters can have more open endings to continue a story along, a shorter piece needs finality in order to satisfy readers. “The arc had to be a little different for my stand-alone piece,” she explains. “It had to come to a more complete character conclusion by the end.”
She agrees that publishing cut pieces helps to build an audience for longer work and points out that writers who publish short stories in literary journals sometimes receive emails from agents interested in representing their book-length work. “When you’re working on a long book, it can take years and years to finish,” she says. “Publishing cut pieces or excerpts allows you to get your work out into more places and build a bigger audience.”
Mari Christie, a Colorado author, keeps a file of material she’s cut from her historical and romance fiction to repurpose in myriad ways. “There’s good stuff in there – kernels of information that can become scenes or short stories or novellas,” she says.
Christie often uses cut material for anthology submissions, blogs posts, and chapter giveaways for subscribers to her newsletter. “Part of my marketing strategy is to use those extra pieces that fell out when I shook the machine before I ever published the book,” she explains.
One of these pieces is a party scene from her first historical romance novel, Royal Regard, which was written under the pen name Mariana Gabrielle (CreateSpace, 2014). In her newsletter, she wrote to subscribers: “Remember that party scene the characters referenced in a chapter? Here’s a story about it!” Then, she gave them a special code that enabled them to read it on her website.
When she found that her Civil War novel Blind Tribute (CreateSpace, 2017) was simply too long, she looked for sections to delete. One of these sections was an editorial about Sherman’s March, which became a post on her blog.
“It’s an interesting and fun way to market and give added value to readers,” she notes. “The writing ends up in someone’s hands, and they say, ‘This is really cool. I like this character, and I can go buy a whole book about them.’”