The Cutting Floor: Wind in the Wires Outtakes by Janet Chester Bly

Today’s guest blogger is Janet Chester Blywho is the widow of award-winning western author Stephen Bly. She will share her experience with cutting scenes from her lastest novel, Wind In The Wires, to make the story better. Cutting scenes is not easly. Writers get attached to their favorite scenes or creative ideas and want them to remain in the story, but editors look at the big picture asking questions such as: does this make sense, does the scene weaken the full scope of action, is there a better place for this scene, and is it necessary to move the story forward? That last question is the hard one. Authors have to keep in mind that a novel must be forward moving with each scene, each set of dialogue focusing on the main story and theme of the novel.

Here’s a summary so you know more about the novel.

BlyBook+WindInWires+LowResIt’s 1991. Reba Cahill loves ranching with Grandma Pearl in north central Idaho. But there’s a lot of work and only two of them. Can she find a husband to help her run the ranch? She finds few prospects in the small town of Road’s End.

But Reba is also missing something else: her mother. Deserted by her at three-years-old and never knowing her dad, she feels a sense of longing and loss. And bitterness.

When elderly, quirky Road’s End citizen Maidie Fortress dies, Seth Stroud presents Reba with an expensive piece of jewelry that turns Reba’s world upside down. And leads her down unexpected paths and toward unsuspected admirers. Will the facts also ruin all hope for romance?



Here’s what Janet tells us about the Cutting Floor and why it happened and made a difference

Authors tend to want to leave everything in their stories. Various readers, editors, and other critics tend to fuss about the writer’s most favorite scenes. I audibly screamed when an editor at the last possible moment told me Jace McKane could not pull or trailer his newly purchased ’55 Chevy convertible behind his Volvo.

“Can’t be done,” he insisted. “1991 Volvo’s not strong enough.”

But that Chevy was a favorite addition. It had emotional impact. For one thing, my late hubby owned one when we first started dating. But I had to leave the Chevy behind. It couldn’t be part of the Wind in the Wires road trip.


In the early scenes Reba Cahill and her city girl BFF Ginny George meet out on a ranch pasture to help a cow in distress. After much speculation and a few comments offered by others, I substituted Reba’s present love interest instead. That was much better than a third hand exchange like this…

Ginny winked at her. “And do you have a steady?”

“Well, here’s the thing. Don Runcie has hinted about wanting to date me. His wife has been gone four years now. I never thought I’d consider him a boyfriend candidate. Or is that man friend? As you can imagine, the choices around here are less than slim.”

“The father of your high school sweetheart? I double dare you.”

“Oh, sure. Like you dared me to swing from the rope tied to your tree house into your pit bull’s pen.”

“Or like I dared you to drink a glass of milk with a shot of my mother’s cognac in it.”


Another scene that proved to be intrusive in the middle of a funeral was discussion about the town’s Hanging Tree…

“Deputy Lomax will be here any minute,” Pearl Cahill reported from the platform. “He’s coming from the hearing in Oroston for the Hanging Tree case.”

“What’s that?” a Road’s End newcomer asked. “What Hanging Tree case?”

Several delighted to enlighten him.

“A man with California license plates tied a rope to the back bumper of his Cadillac.”

“And the other end around Road’s End Hanging Tree.”

“Witnesses charged he tried to steal it.”

“That’s the way I stretch out my calf roping rope,” Tim Runcie added.

“He didn’t look like a rodeo man,” Tucker Paddy reported. “He definitely hadn’t worked no ranch.”

“The city council suspected he was a tree spiker and filed a complaint.”

“He was fined fifty dollars,” the deputy announced to applause as he arrived.


The most dramatic cut in the story was the change of 91-year-old Seth Stroud’s mode of transportation on his big journey he and others took from north-central Idaho to Goldfield, Nevada. He insisted on a covered wagon with mules. But Reba Cahill and, after some figuring, even I protested how long that was going to take.

This was the original scene after Seth announced his plans…

Reba checked out Seth’s wagon. A wooden box bed. A canvas top supported by bent hickory. And running-gear. Seth showed her the false floor he’d made under the bed to store supplies. With front wheels smaller than the back ones, they could swing under the bed and make a right-angle turn with a clearance of two and a half feet.

“How far can you go in a day?” she asked.

“Anywhere from ten to eighteen miles, I reckon. Average of fifteen miles.”

“But that would take weeks!”

“At least fifty days, I surmise, give or take problems along the way.”

“But I can take you in my pickup. I could get you to Goldfield in no more than two days.”

“That’s not the point.” He closed his eyes a moment. “In 1912, Papa and I used the wagon and a canvass tent I still have. That’s the way I want to go back. We towed the brand new Model T Papa bought with what he saved barbering. He sure was proud of it. I think it helped him with the sadness about Mama and the girls.”

The wagon got bumped, but the 1912 Ford Model T stayed. And got painted purple.

From Gail:

As you write your novel, ask questions about  each scene. How does this move the story forward? Does this scene fit the characters? Is it realistic?  Does this dialogue tell and would it be better to show? Each question, even if it hurts, can make your novel better.


About the Author:

Janet Chester Bly is a city girl with a country heart. She doesn’t corral horses or mow her own lawn.Janet+w+leather+scarf+1 “I’m no womba woman,” she says. But she followed her husband award-winning western author Stephen Bly to the Idaho mountain top village of Winchester to write books and minister to a small church. When she lost him, she stayed. She manages the online Bly Books bookstore, rakes lots of Ponderosa pine needles and cones, and survives the long winter snows.



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