My publishing misstep with FINN was exactly fifty-six characters long. Twelve words. Two lines. A pair of simple declarative sentences that live on in the hardcover edition, but have vanished from the trade paperback.
Here's how it happened.
My editor didn't ask for many changes to the manuscript I submitted. He wanted me to go back and make sure I'd adequately signposted some of the more treacherous shifts in chronology, which I did, but that was about it. As for specific line edits, I seem to recall that he had only one. At least only one that I remember. It was fifty-six characters long. Twelve words. Two lines.
The passage came at the end of an wrenching sequence in Chapter 9, where Finn murders his neighbor and burns down the man's house—and then, exercising a kind of appalling power, assures his common-law wife that he has committed these crimes on her behalf. "I done this for you," he says, gripping her forearm tightly, watching the flames.
The scene should have ended there, but it went on for two lines more. I didn't see how needless those two lines were at the time, and although I thought about the edit hard I finally concluded that no, I'd leave things just as they were. My editor acquiesced.
A few months later, when I hit the road for the book tour, I began reading this sequence to audiences night after night. It reliably produced the gasp that I had intended, which was gratifying. But I quickly noticed exactly where that gasp occurred: Right after "I done this for you." The rest was anticlimax, and very soon I stopped reading it.
When the paperback's publication date began to draw near, I sent my editor a note and asked him to take those twelve words out. He did. And FINN is the better for it, no question.
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