Last winter, as I was editing my debut novel, The French Revolution, I confronted a thorny section detailing a wild Christmas scene which my editor had highlighted for revision. Penned with youthful vigor and imaginative flair, the scene was a hell of a romp but also a little long, a little slow, and a little tangential, which added up to highly cuttable. With a quick snip of my cursor, I made the book 2,500 words shorter, and notably tauter.
Today, I'm releasing that section on my website for free. Here's why:
Who doesn't like a holiday bonus? Conceptually, it's up there with puppies and ice cream as universally awesome.
Santarchy. The bonus scene describes the famed Santa Anarchy holiday event (also known as Santarchy, the Santa Rampage, Santacon and Santapalooza) wherein hordes of drunk hipster-types dressed up as Santa terrorize urban department stores with loving snarls and out-of-tune caroling and the rosy stench of bottom-shelf bourbon. It's whimsical and imaginative and good-natured and foolhardy, encapsulating the spirit of San Francisco--where The French Revolution is mostly set, and where Santarchy was founded. It's a topic that should be written about more, and a perfect fit for my rabble-rousing audience.
My readers deserve it. My readers could have easily tossed more money into the Franzen or Larsson Empires, and I wouldn't blame them. Instead, they bet fifteen bucks and eight hours on a debut novel from an unknown author. Aside from the guaranteed trip to heaven that comes with every purchase of The French Revolution, offering a free bonus section is a small way to say thanks in this lifetime.
I can. Ten years ago, distributing a bonus scene to my readers would have involved impossible-to-acquire mailing lists, the United States Postal Service and a lot more free time than I hope I ever have. It's 2010. We can do better.
A reason to send out a Cyber Monday email. My book came out four months ago. Since then, newer, bigger, fresher books have come out from masters like Jonathan Franzen, Stephen King, Nicole Krauss and Emma Donaghue; I was somehow overlooked for the National Book Award; and my editor was laid off. This is a good enough reason as any to ping people during the busiest shopping season of the year.
I'm curious to hear your feedback. Take a look and let me know--should I have kept the section in the book? Or is it better off dead?
Follow Matt Stewart on Twitter: www.twitter.com/mjfstewart