It’s inevitable that not everything makes it through to the final draft of a book. In my case, Mistress was already a very long book, and I had to look to see where I could trim a thousand words here, or a thousand words there. Much of my editing was tightening up the prose – you’d be surprised how much you can shorten the text if you set out to cut, say, 10 words on every page – but I also cut entire scenes.
That’s because the scenes slowed the book up, or didn’t tell us anything new about the characters, or I could use some of the material in other, tighter, better ways. Often it was because my crit group members, who are tough and can be relentless, would be all “Nope. Nope, Jules. Take that bit out. You don’t need it/Mr Bennet just gets in the way there/seems a bit out of character for me/you can do it better and differently and with fewer words.” They were usually right. Mistress still weighs in at just over 140k words, but they had me trimming it by the better part of 25k. Without their help, the book would be so hefty it could probably feature on Murder, She Wrote as a blunt instrument.
That leaves me with several complete scenes that drifted away from the book like so many autumn leaves on a breeze. I did use them when I wandered around the JA blog scene begging people to buy my book – and as an aside, the bloggers in the JA-verse are awesome people who were kind and generous to a newbie – but otherwise they are sitting forlornly on my computer, looking for a new home.
So I’ll post them here, occasionally. Here is the first, taken (appropriately!) from chapter one, where Elizabeth has words with her two younger sisters at a party at Longbourn. For context, Lydia has just announced the coming of a regiment of militia:
With a murmured excuse to Charlotte, Elizabeth rose and went out into the garden, seeking her two youngest sisters. She drew them to one side away from their companions, though both complained at the curtailment of their merriment.
“I will only take a moment,” Elizabeth said, choosing to soothe rather than inflict the acerbic correction she longed to apply to the two heedless girls. “I wish to speak to you about the regiment coming to town next month.”
Lydia clasped her hands at her bosom again, and sighed. “Oh. Redcoats.”
“Yes. Indeed. When they arrive you must remember that you are not to speak to strangers of Netherfield or that I have any connection to it. You must promise that you will remember.”
“No one cares about that,” said Lydia, while Kitty nodded.
“No one cares here, where everyone knows about it. But I do not choose to have strangers know so much about me.”
“La! What difference can it make?”
“Oh well.” Elizabeth affected a careless indifference. “If you wish me to take every red-coated conquest from you, that is entirely your decision.”
Kitty stared. “Whatever do you mean?”
But Lydia narrowed her eyes, and tapped her foot.
“What I mean is… sisters, have you never considered what sort of man becomes a militia officer?” At their blank expressions, Elizabeth hid a frown and a sigh, while wishing their mother would take a more sensible approach with her younger daughters. With all her daughters. “Well, take Sammy Goulding.”
“I would much rather not!” Lydia snorted most inelegantly. “Sammy has not two ha’pennies to rub together!”
“That is my point, Lyddie. Sammy is the Goulding’s third son, and he has no prospect of an inheritance. He is just the sort of man who will join the army or the militia, because there he will have an excellent opportunity to make a living for himself. Such men will always have an eye to marrying a lady who has some property of her own. They cannot afford to do otherwise. If you boast that your sister has such a property… well, I dare say your beaus will think as much of their pocket books as their hearts.”
“You would never steal them!” Kitty stated. “You are too old!”
“I am barely one and twenty!” Elizabeth choked down her offence. “No, I think you will find that your elder sister with a property is a fine, attractive proposition for a young officer. They will be as bees around a flower.”
“You will not steal the officers. You are far too prim and proper.” But Lydia’s eyes were still narrow with suspicion.
“But you cannot be sure they will not wish to be stolen, can you?” Elizabeth said, softly.
They stared at each other until Lydia huffed out a breath and nodded. “We will not say anything, will we, Kit?”
“No, indeed. You have had your turn, Lizzy.”
“Excellent. Then we are agreed. You will say nothing, and I will be indifferent to the officers.”
The girls nodded. Kitty was already looking longingly to where the other girls were taking turns on the swing set under the old oak tree on the lawn, and preening and flirting before their audience of similarly aged young men, including the despised Sammy.
Elizabeth smiled. “Thank you. Now, go and join your friends.”
They needed no further encouragement. They ran across the lawn with more haste than decorum to push into the crowd of young ladies exhibiting before the young men, quite the two flightiest moths fluttering around the masculine candles.
Elizabeth could only hope they had the sense not to be burned.
Where to find Mistress of Netherfield
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