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“I’m sorry, Anne, but I have to let you go.”

Anne Frank ca. 1942

“That’s all right. I found a new position through Monster.com.”

We can learn valuable lessons from Anne Frank. One thing I learned is that anything in a manuscript is fair game for editing.

I wanted to include quotes from Anne Frank’s diary in The Ghosts of Reseda High, so I sought permission to use them. I wrote to the appropriate foundation, who referred me to the publisher. The publisher said I could use the quotes if I paid a licensing fee. There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, I hope my publisher is as aggressive in protecting my copyright as Anne Frank’s is. The amount of the fee isn’t important. If my book becomes the next The Fault in Our Perks of Being a Divergent Twilight Book Thief in the Hunger Games of the Sorcerer’s Stone, the licensing fee is like tossing change in a tip jar. But the licensing fee raised another question: Did I need to include Anne Frank at all?

The answer is no.

Although the Anne Frank quotes fit the theme and contributed to the plot, removing them wouldn’t affect the overall story. Instead, I’m creating a fictional book for the characters to study that would fit the plot more closely and even play a role in the climax. It’s not easy to write a book within a book (although it has been done before), but the effort will help me improve my novel.

Everything in a manuscript can be changed or removed, and nothing is more important than telling the story. As writers, we should never be wedded to our words. The wittiest quotes, the most brilliantly crafted scenes, and even the most fascinating characters can be removed if they don’t contribute to the story. By getting rid of what doesn’t work, we make room for the things that do.

So, I’m sorry, Anne, but I have to let you go.

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