Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Left on the Cutting Room Floor

By Graham Brown

What a great question – there have been so many ;). Seriously, why do they always want us to cut our best stuff? I guess it is because sometimes our “best stuff” is not what’s best for the book and the story itself.

I’m in the middle of editing my second novel right now, but what I’ll offer comes from my first novel, Black Rain, which finally hits the bookstores on January 26.

Black Rain follows two groups racing against each other to find a lost treasure. In this case, a cache of minerals that may be useful in creating a type of sustainable cold fusion. Much of the story takes place in the Amazon, with a secondary plot line involving a power struggles in Washington D.C.

From the start, I knew I was working with an exotic concept and I needed to make the science of the story as realistic as possible. And since deep down inside we all want to write like our literary heroes, in my case James Rollins and Michael Crichton, I made sure to do meticulous research before commiting the science to the page. And then I decided that ALL OF IT needed to be in the book. I mean, come on – that was a lot of work, I’m not leaving it on the floor.

So I wrote this great scene where the hero and the villian are discussing the scientific evidence for Cold Fusion (it’s a lot closer to reality than you think), the massive worldwide effort directed toward a different form of power known as Hot Fusion, (think: the Sun on Earth), and the astounding differences between the two. The problem was – it was too much. This was a scene of great importance, but it didn't need to be one of great length. My editor thought all we needed were the basics, and only the most interesting details. And then we needed to move on.

(Cue John McEnroe - "you must be joking?")

Let me tell you, I’m a Discovery channel nut. I love this stuff and that made it painful to let go. I think I even went into shock for a few days, because honestly I don’t remember what happened after that. But when the blackout ended and the veil was lifted from my eyes, I realized the truth. My Editor was right and I was... I was... (gulp)... I was wrong. (Do not tell her. She’ll be impossible to live with.)

In the new version, the point was made succinctly, clearly and realistically, and the story leapt forward toward the next climactic moment without a big pause. Nothing was lost. Literally nothing. I guess that's why they're editors and we're writers.

Now, what to do with all this Cold Fusion research I've done. Does anyone have an E-bay account?

A former pilot and attorney, Graham Brown's debut novel, Black Rain, hits the bookstores on January 26, 2010.

"The plot envelopes the reader into a brilliantly conceived world, full of strange and amazing things. It sizzles with tension and twists." - New York Times bestselleing author of The Paris Vendetta, Steve Berry.

Black Rain is an adventure that's not only a terrific read, but is smart, intelligent, and poised to shake up the whole thriller community. Every copy should come with a bucket of popcorn and a John Williams soundtrack to play in the background. Loved it." —Linwood Barclay, #1 Internationally Best Selling Author of Fear the Worst

Graham can be contacted about Cold Fusion or other subjects at


Sophie Littlefield said...

hey graham, so glad you're here on CM! I'm totally throwing cold fusion into my next story now that I have an expert to help me out with the details. All kinds of awesome...

Pamela Callow said...

Hi Graham,

Great blog topic. There's always a tension between research and entertainment, and it sounds like you nailed it at the end.

Can't wait to pick up Black Rain!

Rebecca Cantrell said...

Welcome aboard!

Maybe you can use those bits you cut in an interview or a blog post about the science behind the book. It's tough keeping it out.

I know SO MUCH more about 1931 Berlin than ever made it into SMOKE. And some of it was very, very cool too. But I think people hear it even when it isn't there.

Glad you got through the BLACK RAIN blackout OK.

Unknown said...

Science-based thrillers are cool; I'm a James Rollins addict myself. Graham, your novel sounds great with the cold fusion angle.

You mentioned that it's pretty close to reality based on your research. What exactly IS cold fusion, and how does it work? If it does, will it put an end to our power problems forever?

P.S. Don't you hate when editors are right? Burns me up :-)

Unknown said...

Hey, Pamela, good to see you here on CM. Thanks for joining the happy tuna boat o'thrills!

Nikki B said...

Hi Graham,
As a new writer, that is one of the hardest things I am (slowly...very slowly) learning! But I am also a just never know when that extra stuff might come in handy :-)

Jen Forbus said...

Hi Graham, welcome to CM! Enjoyed your post, especially since it was titled exactly the same title I gave my post on my blog when I reported my character had been cut from Michael Koryta's book! :) I had to do a double take - wait a minute!

I wonder, though, was there anything you really fought to keep? I ask because when I reviewed Alafair Burke's first Ellie Hatcher novel, DEAD CONNECTION, I cited a section that really stuck with me and had a big impact. She told me later that she had to fight her editor to keep it and was so glad I mentioned it.

Editor can't always be right...human as they are, so how do you know the element worth fighting for and the one you just need to let go?

Rebecca Cantrell said...

Jen, I think we should use that question for a whole week's worth of panel!

How do you know which editorial changes are worth keeping and which are worth fighting for?

What do you think guys?

Kelli Stanley said...

Graham, it's great to have you in the CM family. :) And that's a terrific post-- I can't wait to read your book! Cold fusion sounds dangerous, sexy and thrilling ... :)

And as Nikki pointed out--you never know what you can reuse later!


Kelli Stanley said...

I think Jen always comes up with a winner!! :)

Let's add it to the question list ... and make sure Jen gets credit for the concept! :)


Michael Wiley said...

Welcome to Criminal Minds, Graham. I say that as a newcomer myself (having joined just three weeks ago). It's a great group -- and better now that you're with us. I'm looking forward to reading the book.

Joshua Corin said...

Graham, that was a terrific post - and I can totally commiserate with you. Like you, I do a ton of research and I find almost all of it interesting and I try to cram it into my novel to create a sense of verisimilitude -- only my novel has suddenly become a lecture instead. Ugh.

I think we should be allowed to publish appendices to our novels, just to show our readers all the hard work we actually put in (most of which doesn't even involve adverbs and exclamation points).