Cruel Cuts by Merciless Editors, Revisited

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these—a collection of brilliant lines cut from groundbreaking novels by editors without taste or compassion*—so here they are, my spurned works of genius, August 2019.

It was too many crumpets. Just too, too many. Adelford licked his lips. “Is this a joke?”

Reason for Removal: It was a joke, one from the development room that survived all the way to the second draft (and probably shouldn’t have).

“I’d build you a garbage island,” he said. “And I’d make you my garbage queen. We’d have a garbage palace and a garbage moat, full of garbage gators.”

“What, like a sewer?”

“Exactly like a sewer.” Archer stretched out on his cot. “And Boris, well, he’d be our garbage ambassador.”


“Two reasons: first, he’d never be home. Second, he’d do such a shit job no-one would want to visit. We’d have the whole place to ourselves.”

Reason for Removal: These characters sound about twelve. They’re meant to be just shy of their eighteenth birthdays. (I repurposed the deleted lines as my personal garbage manifesto, which doesn’t speak well for my own maturity.)

“You’re a cunt,” said Tommy. “Not just a cunt, but a great, gaping maw of a thing with a beard like a pirate.”

Reason for Removal: I had used up my “cunt” allowance. Forever.

Socha crushed the lemon in his fist. Juice dripped between his fingers and sizzled on the pan. He added thyme and rosemary, a splat of garlic butter, and the sharp smell turned savoury. Vanya swallowed hard.


He thought he felt sick, but he nodded all the same. “I could eat.”

Reason for Removal: This wasn’t removed, as such. It was more, ah, rejected with prejudice, for being a loving description of the preparation and consumption of human flesh. (It was part of a proposal that wasn’t picked up, sort of…food porn horror.)

“Fuck it. I’m thirsty.” He let go of the rope, and there was a wet sound and a scream, then more screams, and I knew we were fucked.

Reason for Removal: This one came down to a difference of opinion. I wanted to do a book where a moment of egregious thoughtlessness ended in a lifetime of guilt. I mean, it happens, right? You’re tired; you’re strung out; you do some daft shit, and the consequences haunt you to your grave. But the editor thought it would make the character unsympathetic. (I mean, it would, but I’m tired of romantic heroes beating themselves up over things no-one could blame them for. I wanted, just once, to write about somebody who’d ruined a life for no damn good reason, and never properly atoned. In a romance novel. Okay. I was wrong.)

He fell back, exhausted. “I’m sorry. Long day.”

Reason for Removal: This one wasn’t entirely my fault. The outline said something like “they have HORRIBLE sex and she runs out, embarrassed, vowing never to see him again.” So I was all, okay, what could be so mortifying you’d rush out in ignominy, and you can still sell it at the end of a grocery aisle? Erectile failure, right?

Nope. Not in a romance novel. Never in a romance novel.

(This one was from ages ago, when I first started writing them. I wouldn’t try that now.)

I bonhhnbo

Reason for Removal: Elbow on the keyboard.

Really, I’ve been quite well-behaved lately. Most of my snips have been down to nothing more shocking than excess verbiage. Excess verbiage and Britishisms. You’d think I’d do a better American by now.

Anyway, this is a nautilus which doesn’t belong, but there’s no-one to make me remove it.

* Read: bits of fluff from the cutting-room floor.

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