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February 19, 2013

The Lives We Lost Blog Tour: Guest Post by Megan Crewe

I'm so excited to have Megan Crewe, author of The Way We Fall, on the blog today. She has a great post about the editing process she went through while writing the sequel.

Three Things Cut Before the Final Draft

As anyone who's spent much time listening to writers talk knows, revision is as much about cutting as it is adding and enhancing. So it's inevitable that there are plot points, structural aspects, and maybe even whole characters who exist in the early drafts but have vanished by the time the book makes it to store shelves. Here are the three main elements that you won't be seeing in THE LIVES WE LOST, but could have, and the reasons they were cut:

1. Journal entries.  In an effort to keep continuity with the journal format of the first book, my initial drafts of THE LIVES WE LOST included several journal entries spaced at intervals amid the regular first person narration. Even if Kaelyn wouldn't be recording all these events as they happened, I thought, she might continue to write down her thoughts from time to time.  But the entries always felt a little awkward and out of place, and when my editor mentioned that they seemed extraneous to her too, I knew they had to go. The important material in them was just moved to other scenes. All except the entry at the very beginning of the book, which is intended to wrap up the journal writing and set Kaelyn on her new course:

I started writing here for Leo, to practice saying what I couldn't say to his face.  I kept going because I thought it was important to keep track of the awfulness we’ve been through, to have some sort of record for the rest of the world.  But the world I was writing for—it’s lost.  The boy I started for looks lost too. So what is the point in writing?  This journal isn't going to help me find them.

I have to believe there’s something else that will.

2. The gang on the island.  Readers of THE WAY WE FALL will remember the gang Gav's friend Quentin got involved with, that started hoarding supplies for themselves at the expense of everyone else on the island, burning down buildings where infected people had lived, and even shooting the infected to try to stop them from spreading the virus. In the early drafts of THE LIVES WE LOST, I had that gang make an attack on the town's stash of food, mainly to give Kaelyn an additional push to risk leaving the island and seek outside help despite dangerous conditions. But I was concerned that Kaelyn's group wasn't getting to the exciting stuff off the island soon enough, and my editor pointed out that Kaelyn had plenty of good reasons to make her journey already, making this bit redundant.  So that scene got kicked to the curb. For the curious, here's a little taste of it:

The stink of burning gasoline filled the air.  Flames were licking the door frame of one of the file rooms where we kept the food.  Gav snatched up a cushion from one of the chairs to beat at the fire.  I ducked into the front office, searching for anything that might help, and almost tripped over Mr. McGraw, the hall clerk.

He was lying on the ground, blood seeping from a bullet wound in his side and soaking into the checkered carpet.  I dropped to my knees beside him.  He groaned as I fumbled for something to use as a bandage.  In the end, I tore off my scarf and pressed it to the wound.  Heat wafted over us.

“I can’t stop it,” Gav said behind me.  “We’ve got to grab all the food we can before the place burns down!"

“Gav, he’s been shot,” I said.  “I don’t think he can get out on his own.”

Gav wavered in the doorway.  “Someone there?” a voice called from farther away.

“Yes!” I said.  “Here!  We need help!”

3. Sick but not from the virus. I had dinner with my editor a few months after she acquired the trilogy, and during our conversation about the sequel, she commented that it might be interesting to show how, with everyone so scared of the virus, a person getting sick from even a regular cold or flu could create a panic. I agreed, and so the early drafts of THE LIVES WE LOST contained a sequence in which Leo gets a 24 hour bug, which slows down the group's progress and causes tension in the group:

Tobias wouldn't come within five feet of him the whole rest of the day--until we had to sleep and it was either squish together into the tent or one of them freeze--and Tessa hasn't left his side for a second.  Because we’re all still afraid it might be.  Five months ago, it would have just been a stomach bug.  Not fun, but nothing remotely scary either.

Now, we see sick, we panic.  Doesn't matter what kind of sick it is.

Maybe we should.  Dad said the virus could mutate.  It already did once.

It was a perfectly good concept, but once we got to work on making the story as tight as possible, I realized those scenes weren't really necessary the way everything that's still in the book is. And so they too ended up on the cutting room floor. It's not always about the material not working--sometimes it's just not working quite hard enough.

I hope you enjoyed this glimpse inside the editing process!

* * *
Thank you to Megan for stopping by the blog! Look out for my reviews of both books and some giveaways!

Now a little bit about Megan:

Like many authors, Megan Crewe finds writing about herself much more difficult than making things up. A few definite facts: she lives in Toronto, Canada with her husband and two cats (and does on occasion say "eh"), she tutors children and teens with special needs, and--thankfully--the worst virus she's caught so far is the garden-variety flu.

You can find a more detailed biography on her main website.

Megan welcome questions and comments from readers. Email her directly or visit her blogFacebook pageTwitterTumblr, or GoodReads profile.

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