C is for Cutting Room Floor (And You Thought Your Writing Was Bad)

images (4)Editing is tedious, backbreaking, thankless work. Copy editing is bad enough…going back to fix those glaring (and sometimes not so glaring) grammar and spelling faux pas…and running through each detail with your fact-checking comb isn’t much better…but that’s nothing compared to making the painful, and often necessary, decision of taking out passages or characters that you love, but are just not right for the story.

But that’s not what this post is about. This post is about all the superbly shittastic stuff you wrote that you had no business writing in the first place. This is about the passages that are so horrifying, so absolutely irredeemable, that after deleting them you also downloaded a hard drive cleaner to purge them from this earth, and memory, for all of time.

WAIT A MINUTE. Not so damn fast. Why would you delete these gems? You do know there’s an entire fiction contest just for terribad (Yeah, I made up a word. Deal with it) writing? And you can submit more than once? Get thee to the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest immediately.

Besides, let’s be honest. There’s no PTSD for writers. What was once seen cannot be unseen.

Myself, I always write everything in versions. Anytime I make anything other than cosmetic edits, I save a new version. This means that, for the most part, I have everything I’ve ever written. I might need to write a codicil in my will specifying that whoever gets my baller fortune of $5 is also responsible for downloading one of those hard driver cleaners…

St. Charles at Dusk went through dozens and dozens of revisions and versions over the years before it was published. You can imagine that cornucopia of fail, then, that exists in the dark halls of the “archived” folders. Well, you’re in luck because self-deprecation is totally my cup of tea, so I’m here to share a few of these beauties with you.



In St. Charles, Charles had four children by his maid Lisette, because his wife is an insufferable bitch. Originally, I thought it would be a “good idea” to have this be a result of her fancy voodoo rituals.

How Lisette was able to have four daughters, four of what Charles wanted most, and nothing more has undergone assumption outside as well as inside the walls of the firm. It was no secret that her grandmother, Adele, was practicing voodoo that she had picked up from a priestess in the Vieux Carré. Adele was said to have spent weeks and, later, months at a time away from home, off in the bayou several miles from the city limit. Her daughter Margeaux, Lisette’s mother, began joining her on these outings more and more frequently just before Lisette began having Charles’ children.

When Oz gets word that Adrienne has turned up alive, he goes to the bayou to find her. This passage is chock full of terrible cultural stereotypes aplenty.

The following morning, I woke up to the sound of the cicadas and the sun penetrating through the thin sheath of curtains. There was truly nothing like a Louisiana morning in the dead heat of August.

No sooner did my eyes open, did I hear a knock at the door of my motel room.

“Just a second,” I called out as I slipped a white tee over my head. Great timing. I had chosen the perfect day to enjoy some extra shut-eye.

The knock came again, this time more impatient.

       “Hold on, would you? I’m getting dressed!” I yelled as I fumbled for my jeans. I put both feet in and jumped as I yanked them up. Before I knew it, my balance failed me and I fell into the nightstand, knocking off the lamp. The knocking stopped as the sound of it shattering silenced us both.

“Now look what you made me do. I’m not paying for this,” I muttered furiously under my breath. Oh well, the thing was cheap anyways. I pulled myself back up and looked through the cloudy peephole. On the other side stood what appeared to be a man, although the brim of the old hat was too large for me to tell from such a small perspective. He was wearing a torn red and black flannel and some faded black jeans.

What appeared to be a stem of some local vegetation protruded from the mouth beneath the hat.

“Welcome to the bayou,” I whispered to myself and opened the door. “Can I help you?”

       “Git out here boy! I got other things to do today; I ain’t got all the time in the world!” The man snapped. I finally got a good look at him. His face seemed too old for his age, which couldn’t be more than forty. Years of hard work reflected in his eyes. In all of my twenty-five years, I had never been into Cajun Country. I felt like a tourist already and the day had only just begun.

“Sorry, I must have lost track of time. My name is Austin, but I go by Oz,” I said, extending my hand in the friendliest possible of gestures.

The burly man looked down on me, but made no move to take my hand. “Oz? What kint of a name is dat?”

“My cousins all had a hard time saying Austin when I was little. All they could make out was the first part, Oz. It just kind of stuck,” I explained, and immediately regretted it after seeing the look on the man’s face. It was most likely a mirror of the one on mine.

“Creoles,” he muttered with disgust. “Well, git on wit ya. I ain’t got all day boy. I’m here to deliver a message.”

“I’m sorry, who are you?”

“Wake-up call.”


Obviously there’s more where these came from, but that’s about all the public humiliation I can endure for one day.

Do you feel better about your own writing now? If not, you should.


24 thoughts on “C is for Cutting Room Floor (And You Thought Your Writing Was Bad)

  1. I haven’t even begun to edit any of my writing–not in any significant way, so I know I have my work cut out for me. When I do edit, my novel may be an entirely different book than what it is now.
    Great post!

    1. I think the best part of editing is when you can actually look back and remember giving yourself a metaphorical high five when you wrote something in the first place, and then having the benefit of hindsight to question your past judgement. There are so many sentences where I actually cringe when I go back to read them. So bad. But so good at the same time!

      And you are absolutely right…sometimes it does end up being an entirely different book…but that’s not always a bad thing.

    1. Its definitely one of the most peculiar parts of being a writer…but then, at least it gives us something to laugh about later!

      Thanks for stopping by 🙂

      1. Pretty good…almost 6k words in. The story feels slow going, but I’m hitting my daily goals, and I know that first drafts are always rough. You?

      2. actually good. I am closing in on the 6k as well surprisingly. I am having issues with pov. right now I am doing 3rd person because that is what is normal, but I think my gut is saying to do 1st. I don’t know yet though.

      3. I’m struggling with the same thing…I guess since its a first draft it doesn’t matter if I switch back and forth for now until I figure it out!

      4. i am trying not to switch bc I know editing is going to be really touch so I don’t want to have to worry unless i decide to totally change it. I feel that since I put so much focus on the main character, her thoughts, emotions,memories and daily life I should do first person, but am leery. I am happy to be following through though.

  2. I tweeted a line from my manuscript that was so bad I couldn’t even believe it. In my defense, I think it was a result of editing one sentence and forgetting to fix what was leftover. It read was:The sky was overcast, so the big Texas sky full of stars were hidden.

    I mean… it’s just so, so bad. So bad. So bad. All you can do is laugh though… and delete!

  3. Actually I try to make the first draft somewhat good, more or less unintentionally. I revise while I write. I know I shouldn’t do that, but while writing I switch back and forth and simply have to improve every not-so-good-part I come across. I simply can’t leave errors uncorrected.

    I still have to revise, the next day, but often only once. Actually, I soon loose the interest in the whole thing, I can’t stand reading it more then a few times. I simply want it out and away. When it is out, I still find some bad or inconsistent passages and errors.

    I often think bad of the things I have written. But when I reread it month later I often think: ‘Hey, that’s quite good’

    I don’t consider myself being a writer, though. And I haven’t written anything of considerable length recently. My diploma thesis and bigger assignments from my graduate courses are a while back. And I haven’t tackled anything fictitious (yet).

    I simply hack my blog posts into the online editor from WordPress in one or two sessions, no versioning, revising the next day and then I throw it out into the wild.

    But for my next bigger project: the master thesis, I will make it differently. I promise. Otherwise I fear to get soon entangled and don’t move in any direction.

    Thanks for the great post, by the way.

    1. I think the only reason I rush through first drafts is that my OCD (clinical, not hyperbolic) needs to feel like I am making progress. Having a near finished first draft in front of me is hugely motivating to go further. This is why NaNoWriMo is great for me.

      But some of my best writing has been those times where I allowed myself to write slowly and revise along the way. So its hard to say which is better for my brain.

      You’re right though: things that looked crappy at the time often look better in hindsight!

      And if you can write a thesis, my friend, you are definitely a writer. Good luck!

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