The first draft of Cinder clocked in at about 70,000 words.
After I’d set it aside for a few months, I came back, realized it was awful, and scrapped the whole darn thing.
Which is good. I think a story needs space to grow and breathe if it’s to become its best possible self, and it’s hard to do that when the story is contained within already existing words. Sometimes you just have to hit the delete key and move on.
(A brief interjection here to note that I never truly hit the delete key. Every “deleted scene” is really just saved in another file.)
So I started over. Draft #2 came in at around 75,000 words. I only had to delete about half of those.
By Draft #3, things were starting to take shape. Though there would still be a lot of revision to come, the 85,000 words that made up that draft were beginning to solidify into something that had a beginning, a middle, an end, and a decent amount of exciting stuff happening in between.
But that’s a lot of words from those first two drafts that went missing. Poof, gone, never to be seen by another human soul. No matter how unnecessary a scene was, or how much the story was improved by replacing it with something else, there lingers a tinge of regret. It’s almost like growing up—the story is no longer the naïve, innocent child it once was.
So in honor of all those deleted scenes that are buried in my graveyard of a computer, I’m going to share one with you today.
ABOUT THE SCENE
This is the first meeting between Cinder and Kai from the first draft of Cinder. Unlike the final book, in which they meet very early on, this encounter didn’t happen until about 50 pages in, and you’ll see it has very little in common with the meeting in the book. I hope you’ll agree there’s good reason it didn’t make the final cut!
I’ve edited out anything that I feel could be deemed a spoiler, but if you’re the type who likes to go into a story completely blind, please use discretion. Otherwise, this is entirely unchanged and unedited. (Which was a test of restraint on my part, as it could sorely use some editing …)
DELETED FROM CINDER: DRAFT ONE
An android was waiting in the elevator terminal that Cinder had not noticed before. It was a short and stout thing, androgynous, and painted all black save the yellow visor across where human eyes would have been.
“Which floor?” it asked in a basic robotic voice, programmed to sound neither male nor female. Most government-owned androids were not given gender specifications, for political correctness.
“First,” Cinder said.
“Please wait at the second elevator to your left,” the android said.
Cinder thanked it out of habit and went to wait for the elevator. Only once she found herself standing there before two ornately carved wooden doors did it occur to her that this might be the last time she was ever inside the castle walls. She began to wish that she would have wandered around a little, done some exploring—surely no one would have noticed—but it didn’t matter now. It would be rude to slip away after the android had already called the elevator for her, wouldn’t it?
No sooner had she started debating with herself on the logic of feeling guilt after being rude to an android without emotions, did the wood doors open before her with a quiet whooshing sound and she stepped inside.
The doors shut behind her, leaving her alone. With a sigh, she leaned against the back of the elevator, tilting her head back and staring up at a black lacquered ceiling. The magnitude of all that Merlin had told her made her dizzy.
How had she even survived?
She felt the elevator come to a halt, but the scripted numbers above the doors showed that she’d only reached the fifth floor.
The doors opened.
Cinder’s eyes widened to see Prince Kai standing on the landing before her. Their eyes locked. The warmth in his dark gaze was a hundred times more engrossing than it ever appeared on the newsscreen. Cinder felt her heart leap up into her throat, and her mouth dried, and she could not stop staring at him, even as he stepped into the elevator.
In a sudden rush of panic, Cinder pushed herself away from the elevator wall and dipped into a floundering curtsy. “Your Highness.”
When she looked up at him again, he had a soft smile about his lips, but his gaze seemed curious and intense. Did he always look that way, so charming and self-assured? He nodded his head at
her in a silent acknowledgment, and then turned his focus to another man who had entered the elevator with him—Cinder recognized it as the man who had been with him at the press meeting, his advisor was it?
“I only think it best to have patience in these hard times,” the man said. “So much has happened in the past year. I think the people could use a time of stability, of quiet.”
“I agree,” Prince Kai said, “but I believe this is the best way for me to give it to them. It will be a symbol of hope.”
And just like that, Cinder was forgotten. She stood solitary and silent at the back of the elevator, tense and shaking, listening to the thudding of her heart and staring at the back of Prince Kai’s head.
“Just so long as you keep in mind that this is not a decision to be taken lightly, Your Highness,” the advisor was saying. “It is not only your future that will be affected by this.”
Cinder watched breathless as the prince’s head bobbed slowly up and down. She could not see his face, but she imagined the thoughtful expression upon it. “I know,” he said quietly after a long pause.
And then the elevator stopped at the first floor and the doors whooshed open, letting in beams of white light from a courtyard just beyond a glass wall.
The advisor went out immediately, but Cinder found herself plastered to the wall again as the prince moved to leave as well, but then paused in the elevator door and turned back to her. Their eyes locked once again and she gaped, trembling, when he flashed that small, curious grin at her once more, and held out an arm toward the exit.
“After you, my lady,” he said.
Dread filled her for a breath’s moment when it occurred to her that she was paralyzed with nerves, but then she summoned her sanity and forced her heavy feet to take her away from the wall.
“Your Highness,” she said again, a low, shy murmur, with a polite dip of her head as she passed by him.
He did not respond and she dared not look into his eyes again, instead plastering her gaze to the floor just before her and continuing her slow, even pace through the hallway until she took a turn and was sure he could no longer see her.
She stopped and gulped in a few deep breaths and chided herself for her mute stupidity. Then she tried to figure out where on earth her feet had taken her to.
(This was originally posted on Working for the Mandroid as part of the Cinder Blog Tour: http://www.workingforthemandroid.com/main/2012/1/6/guest-post-marissa-meyer-author-of-cinder-deleted-scene.html)
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