“I have rewritten—often several times—every word I have ever published. My pencils outlast their erasers.” —Vladimir Nabokov, Speak, Memory
Interviewer: How much rewriting do you do?
Hemingway: It depends. I rewrote the ending of Farewell to Arms, the last page of it, 39 times before I was satisfied.
Interviewer: Was there some technical problem there? What was it that had stumped you?
Hemingway: Getting the words right. —Ernest Hemingway, The Paris Review Interview, 1956
I strongly believe in the rewrite. I think I may have driven more than one editor insane by how strongly I believe in it. Sometimes, to me at least, the first half of the writing process is about scribbling things down as you find and sort the story, then the second half is making sure that the words are exactly right to convey that story. For some stories the first half is a much longer journey than the second one. That was the case for Sideshow.
If I gave you the following one sentence summary: “Detroit 1955: A young pregnant waitress on the run joins a traveling carnival to hide from both her father and her boyfriend’s killer.” Would you even think for a moment that this was from the snowflake outline (the method I use for diagramming my initial novel ideas) of Sideshow?
Sideshow went through many, many , many changes before it made it’s way to the publisher and even more before it actually went to print. This didn’t shock me at all. It happens all the time with my work and I’m sure a lot of writers will agree.
And all of this is a long, roundabout way of saying that today we have deleted scenes! I’ve selected a few of my favorite scenes that were cut from Sideshow during the process of writing and rewriting. Enjoy! (and maybe if you ask really nicely I’ll share the “alternate ending” or rather the ending I never finished because it went off the rails.)
1st we have the original end to Abby and Suprema’s first date in which they run into Abby’s Aunt Teresa. Ultimately, I didn’t feel that it was necessary to actually introduce this character (yet) and that she was more impactful off the page.
Abby stood up from the table and offered her arm to Suprema. They started for the door, but were stopped in their tracks as a well dressed woman in a circle skirt bustled in, arms full of packages. Something familiar in her face caught Abby’s eye and she continued to watch as the woman made her way to the counter and set her packages down. “I’ve got another 4 dozen of the seed cookies here,” she said in a light airy way that seemed calibrated to hide an accent. Even that sounded familiar to Abby.
“Right, Signora Holland,” said the woman behind the counter. “And I’ve got your money here for them, just a minute.”
“Therese, please,” she asked, trying to sound friendlier while still effecting the right vowels. “I’m Therese here, Maria.”
Maria frowned, but she nodded and hurried away from the counter.
“Do you know her?” Suprema asked, her voice gently, but prodding. Only then did Abby realize that not only she was holding onto her arm much too tightly, but she was also blocking the aisle.
“I-I think so,” she whispered. “I think she might be my aunt.”
When Maria had handed Abby’s Aunt Teresa the money, she turned to go. Abby wanted to duck behind a booth, but there was no time. Teresa turned directly toward Abby and Suprema and put her hand to her heart with a small gasp. “Ninfa?” Her accent was back in its rightful place.
“Abby,” Abby corrected, still holding tightly to Suprema’s arm. She needed something, anything, to ground her.
“What are you- When did you- How did-?” She trailed off, glancing around the restaurant. The rest of the patrons were all looking pointedly at their lunches, pretending not to hear. She looked Abby over, examining every inch of her. “You look so much like your mother. I thought I was seeing a ghost.”
“I’ve been told that,” Abby said, trying to keep a frown from flitting onto her face.
“It’s been a long time.” Teresa fidgeted as she looked around the restaurant, not daring to look at Abby for too long.
“It has.” Abby looked right at her taking her in. She barely remember her from her youth. It had been ages since she had last laid eyes on her and even those memories were quite hazy.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t make it to the- Well, you know. The timing was bad for traveling. Things are different for me now. I’d just remarried. He’s English, and he wasn’t ready, well, to meet my family.” She pointedly met Abby’s eye as if suddenly trying to send her a secret signal.
Abby looked away so that she couldn’t see it, as if that could keep her from understanding it. She didn’t want to admit that she knew exactly what her aunt was trying to say, but she did. “Oh,” was all she could say in response.
“If you need anything though, anything at all.” Teresa began to reach out and take her niece by the hand, but was unable to complete the action. Abruptly she retracted and sped out the door without another word.
Abby remained frozen to the spot until Suprema lightly touched the back of her hand and startled her from the trance. “So that was your aunt?” she asked in a tentative voice.
“I don’t really know,” Abby said. Her eyes were stinging and she knew that she had to fight the tears back as hard as she could. “I guess not.”
Suprema frowned, a knowing expression on her face. It was a look that Abby could read with ease. She had seen it on the faces of so many of the other carnival workers: a defiant understanding of loneliness. “Come on then,” she whispered, sounding suddenly firm and resolute. “We don’t need her.”
2nd is another favorite of mine: the hot air balloon. This was one of the first scenes I wrote and I still love it. Originally, hot air balloons played a large roll in the plot, however, when I started researching I quickly learned that hot air ballooning was not really a recreational activity until well into the 1960s (Seriously, I didn’t believe it either, but it’s true!). Oops. So all of that had to go, but I still think this little scene had some lovely magic.
Abby’s eyes lit up as she watched the world below drift away. She had always imagined that something like this would terrify her, but instead she felt exhilarated. The carnival, the city, everything became small and suddenly manageable, as if by changing her perspective, she could now take on the world. Finally Della’s comment about being born on the ground made sense.
“Suprema, this is…This is incredible. How often do you come up here?”
“Not often. Only when I really need to think about something.”
Below, the roofs of houses, the highways, the river, looked like a child’s drawing. Abby squeezed her eyes shut, trying to fix the image in her mind.
“You aren’t scared are you?” Suprema asked, genuine concern in her voice.
Abby shook her head. “I’m trying to remember this moment.”
“Don’t. You’ll miss it.” She slipped her arm around Abby’s waist and Abby automatically leaned into her. The pair stayed that way, silently watching the scenes of the city play out beneath them, until, eventually, Suprema broken the silence. “I don’t want you to leave.”
Abby looked up, suddenly taken aback. “You’d be the only one.”
“That’s not true. We all care about you, Abby. You’re one of us.”
The scoff escaped before Abby could corral it. “Far from it. Della made that painfully clear.”
“Della,” Suprema scoffed as well. “What does Della know?”
Before Abby could intercede on Della’s behalf, Suprema had continued. “I know I’m not…my opinion doesn’t count for much, but…I want you to stay. I need you to stay.”
Abby watched her eyes. The usual sadness was there, but there was something more behind them, something hopeful and warm. Abby had seen it a few times before, but this time it was different, it shone. “Why?” she said, pulling out of Suprema’s embrace.
“You’re nice,” Suprema began. “Phebe adores you. Vinnie practically wants to adopt you.”
“They’ve all gotten along fine before now. They’ll get along fine after I go home.”
“There’s also…” Suprema hesitated and looked around as if she might see a stowaway on the balloon eavesdropping on their conversation. “Well, there’s also the fact that I love you.”
This, Abby had not been expecting. She stared hard at Suprema’s face, the warm look in her eyes growing to almost a beacon. “You-”
“Was it not obvious?”
Without stopping to breath, Abby threw her arms around Suprema. The basket of the balloon tossed just a little, but neither of them seemed to mind. “No,” Abby whispered. “No, it wasn’t obvious.”
Suprema brushed a strand of Abby’s hair from her face and gazed at her. “I’m not very good at-”
Abby shook her head. “You don’t need to explain.” Then she kissed her. The thrill of being miles above the earth could not even begin to compare to the thrill of that one kiss.
To read how it really goes, pick up a copy of Sideshow from Interlude Press.