So I was sitting here watching the special features on the Angel DVDs and fretting about sending my silly zeppelin story off tomorrow. (It’s been three years since I submitted anything for publication, if that gives you any perspective.) And I get to “Waiting in the Wings,” one of the best episodes this show has ever done and the one that got nominated for a Hugo last year. I turn on the commentary, and Joss Whedon is telling the story of how he got the idea for this episode, and the whole story was an excuse to show off Amy Acker’s ballet skills… and the scene was blocking the narrative flow and finally he had to give in and cut it. He explains that one of the first lessons he learned as a writer was that when a story doesn’t work, you have to take the part that you loved, the part that made you write the story in the first place, and cut it. And the story will work.
I know this has been said a zillion times as “you must kill your darlings,” but I’d never heard it put quite this way before, and just then it struck me that the problem with the zeppelin story was the thing that I had loved about it: the Pakistani chef. (I know it sounds ridiculous. Go with me here.) I’d already had to change him because he couldn’t be Pakistani, but what I really needed to do was cut him altogether.
So now my story is fixed up and printed and ready to go and I’m not fretting over it anymore. It’s still not the story I saw in my head, but it’s a hell of a lot better than it was half an hour ago.
Joss Whedon is a god, and now I’m going to turn off the computer and go watch the scene he loved so much he had to cut it from the story.