Old Man's War by John ScalziIn a particularily candid move, John Scalzi, the author of Old Man’s War (REVIEW), The Ghost Brigades (REVIEW) and The Last Colony, pulled back the curtain a bit and is giving fans a look at some of the things that just weren’t good enough to make it into The Last Colony.

From the Subterranean Press web site:

This particular excised chapter comes from an iteration of The Last Colony that I didn’t write (or more accurately, didn’t complete): the second iteration, in which I had planned to write the books in alternating chapters of first person and third person, the first person chapters featuring John Perry, the hero of Old Man’s War, and the third person chapter featuring other characters, particularly General Tarsem Gau, the leader of the Conclave. Eventually, I abandoned the idea for two reasons: it rapidly became clear it would be a structural nightmare, and also because if I wrote it this way, the book would end up in the 180,000 word range — i.e., I’d have written enough for two books, and would only be paid for one. Bad writer, no cookie.

And as it turns out, I mined it again for part of Zoe’s Tale. You’ll have to wait to see which part and how, but the fact that I could (and did) goes to show that nothing has to be wasted. This excised chapter itself will never see the light of day as part of a larger story, but little bits and pieces can be moved around and used and recycled. Waste not, want not.

The lesson here for writing is that even your “failures” — the stuff that doesn’t work for your book, for whatever reason — can still have value to you as you’re wrestling with your work. This is one reason way, whenever I chop out a significant chunk of text from a book I’m writing, I don’t simply delete it: I cut it and paste it into an “excisions” document that I keep handy. That way I can go back to that material for reference, or to drop a line or an idea into the final version, perhaps in a completely different context, but where it will do some real good. This is what I do, and it’s worked for me so far.

The whole article can be found HERE.

Having just finished The Last Colony, it’s certainly interesting to get a peek at some of the process that goes into writing, and editing it. Look for a review of The Last Colony soon.

  • SQT August 27, 2008 at 8:41 am

    I just discovered Scalzi for myself when Tor sent me a copy of “Agent to the Stars.” What a great author (and a great book). I totally intend to go pick up as many of his books as I can.

  • aidan August 27, 2008 at 9:04 am

    SQT – I totally wanted to hate Scalzi when I picked up his first novel (the guy’s just too damn cool and successful to be anything but an asshole), but couldn’t help falling in love.

    Scalzi’s easily my favourite author I’ve discovered in the last year.