If you're familiar with the process of writing at all, you know that the final product that gets published is, uh... not even a little bit anything like the original version. Or the version after that. Or after that. There are so, so many drafts, you guys. So many rewrites. So many cuts. Sometimes your original draft is so bad that when you go back to peek at it months or years later, it's like looking in a terrifying fun house mirror of your finished book. "Is THAT what it looked like? Dear god, who let me write this? BURN IT WITH FIRE"
I guess showing you a scene from a draft that was overall rather burn-it-with-fire-y isn't the BEST promotional strategy, but here we are. Actually, the bit I'm about to share is a short conversation between my two favorite characters that got cut not because it physically injured me to read (What am I talking about? All of my own writing physically injures me to read), but because it just wasn't needed for the story. It slowed down the pacing, didn't add anything substantial, and honestly skewed Meg's personality as a little too pessimistic and grumbly, when she's actually the sort of person who's so used to chaos that rolling with the punches and moving on (with the help of some gallows humor) is her go-to coping mechanism.
So here it is--a decapitated scene from an early draft of Collateral Damage. If you've read my first chapter (and if you haven't, you can here), you know that the book opens with Meg, a sarcastic girl with no powers, nearly getting killed when her car is destroyed during a superhero vs supervillain battle. In this scene, Meg snags a ride home with her pizza delivery boy-next-door/best friend, Oliver, detouring to check on said car.
The whipping-around-corners thing continues until we reach the street where I abandoned Arnold this morning. I was hoping maybe the ash and smoke and general panic of earlier today might have made Arnold’s condition worse in my memory than it actually was, but the hope vanishes as we screech to a stop. Wow. Yeah, a nice trip through the gas station car wash isn’t going to fix that. He’s nothing but a blackened frame, with the glass shattered out, doors in shambles, and an even coating of ash punctuated only by a sliver of neon green on the windshield.
“Are you kidding me?” I jump out of Oliver’s car and sprint to my own, snatching the parking ticket and waving it over my head back at him. “Look at this. Look at this. Property of the city destroys my car and somehow now I owe them…” I rip open the envelope, peer inside, and let out a yelp of hysterical laughter. “…one hundred and sixty-five dollars. That’s great. That’s just so great.”
“The words you are saying are incongruous with the laughter with which you are saying them,” Oliver calls through the open window.
“I’m laughing because my life is so hilarious. Isn’t it? Isn’t this hilarious?”
He hops down from the driver's seat. “Is it happening? Have you finally cracked? I always promised I would record this moment, hold on.”
“My car! My paycheck! ” I shout, and then, sinking to my knees, lie face-first on the concrete. I immediately regret it. The ashy, debris-riddled ground is the antithesis of comfort.
“Oh, come on.” I feel Oliver reach down and pat me on the head. “It’s okay. It’ll be okay. There, there.“
I grunt sullenly into the pavement.
“Sorry, I didn’t catch that.”
I turn my face sideways. “I said, AUUUUUGH.”
“How eloquent of you. Hey.” He nudges me again. “You’re gonna get run over.”
“Maybe if I get run over my life insurance will pay all my bills.”
Oliver snorts. “I don’t think you’re old or successful enough to have life insurance. Come on, get up. I have total faith in your ability to talk your way out of a ticket. I mean, you talked your way out of being held hostage at that gala last month, remember? How much harder can this be?”
“True,” I grumble. Oh, man. This city really ought to stop letting rich people have gatherings. You’d think they would have learned after the first dozen attempted robberies, hostage situations, bombings, and city-takeover threats. “No more sneaking into gala events, even for the free fancy appetizers. Never again. They never end well.”
“That’s the spirit. Besides, you can always ride Arnold Jr. until Arnold gets resurrected.”
“Oh, good,” I groan, rolling over and sluggishly standing back up. The ground is getting hot. “I love biking twenty blocks to work every morning. Exercise is my favorite.”
Yeah! See--it's okay, and I love me some good Oliver/Meg banter, but it was ultimately sacrificed to the COLLATERAL DAMAGE DUMPING GROUNDS doc on my computer, which is a dark, shadowy place that I try not to look at but was forced to in order to find the least embarrassing possible scene for this post.
The rest of the book comes out in two weeks!! THAT'S something worth panicking about.