Will iconic images recorded in the grooves of an ancient vase unite the Holy Land or rip it further apart?


A novel by Mark M. DeRobertis

Muhsin Muhabi is a Palestinian potter, descended from a long line of potters. His business is run from the same shop owned by his ancestors since the day his forebears moved to Nazareth. The region's conflict saw the death of his oldest son, and rogue terrorists are in the process of recruiting his youngest in their plot to assassinate the Pope and Israeli prime minister.

Professor Hiram Weiss is an art historian at Nazareth’s Bethel University. He is also a Shin Bet operative on special assignment. With the help of fellow agent, Captain Benny Mathias, he plans to destroy the gang responsible for the death of his wife and only child. He puts a bomb in the ancient vase he takes on loan from Muhsin’s Pottery Shop.

Mary Levin, the charming assistant to the director of Shin Bet, has lost a husband and most of her extended family to recurring wars and never-ending terrorism. She dedicates her life to the preservation of Israel, but to whom will she dedicate her heart? The brilliant professor from Bethel University? Or the gallant captain who now leads Kidon?

Harvey Holmes, the Sherlock of Haunted Houses, is a Hollywood TV host whose reality show just flopped. When a Lebanese restaurant owner requests his ghost-hunting services, he believes the opportunity will resurrect his career. All he has to do is exorcise the ghosts that are haunting the restaurant. It happens to be located right across the street from Muhsin’s Pottery Shop.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

One More Pass

One more readthrough on THE VASE before I submit it. Made a few more minor revisions through the first five chapters. Still no reason to resend it to LOC. I hope to be finished with it once and for all by the end of the week. (But that's what I hoped the last time I read it through.)

Over here at the Middle School, things are great. The students are wonderful, truly, and everyone is eager to learn. I was not looking forward to losing so much time writing, revising, etc, but it turned out OK. I still have time to write when I get home, and after dinner. I stayed up a little too late last night. Got to hit the sack before midnight if I expect to be up by six and ready to go by 6:45.

My son's first football game, (he's a freshman in high school) is on Friday. Something to look forward to. (Oh, is that a dangling preposition?) Another thing to look forward to is Janet Reid's writing contest. I missed the last one. She held it on Friday, but I didn't get to it on Friday. I'll look for the next one this week. I like her writing contest format the best.

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Vase - Not so Done

Went back and began rereading my second novel, THE VASE. Just as I've said before, whenever I reread these manuscripts, I just can't seem to help making additional revisions. I've read about it on other writers' blogs, so I know it's not just me. At this point it's mostly just a word or two changed or rearranging a sentence - minor stuff. Certainly nothing major at this point. Since I've already sent it to the Library of Congress for a Copyright, I hope nothing major gets changed. I don't believe it will.

It happened with KILLER OF KILLERS. I finished it, revised it, and before I sent fulls to agents who requested it, I went ahead and copyrighted it. But then, as I explained in earlier posts, I ended up making some major revisions, and so I had to resend the changed version for another copyright.

As I understand it, you don't need to resend for another copyright if you make minor revisions, as I'm doing now for The Vase. But if you make some major changes, say, adding new chapters, for example, then you do need to resend it. That's what happened with KOK.

Of course, agents say you really don't need to copyright your material in the submission stage. They say no one is going to "steal" your ideas. But I think it's wiser to do it, anyway. It's easy, because you can do it online, it's cheap, about 30 bucks, and it takes the LOC about six months to finally get it done, but it's retroactive. Meaning the copyright is valid from the point they receive your material, not just when you get that certificate from them in the mail.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Violence in Kid's Literature

Many blogs have been talking about violence in kid's literature, and if it affects them somehow. I don't think it does. I actually remember being a kid, and I was upset when my favorite TV show was cancelled because someone said it was too violent. When I watch DVDs of that show now, The Wild Wild West, with Robert Conrad, is hardly violent compared with what's on TV these days. That show did not impact me in any way as far as violence is concerned. It didn't make me a violent kid. It didn't desensitize me to violence, and it didn't impact me psychologically.

I have two sons, both young still, and they have watched a lot of movies that have violence, and neither have become violent or psychologically bothered.

I haven't read a lot of YA books, but the fact that kids are reading is a good thing. As a teacher, I can say that violence in the school setting is not caused by any violence in literature. Peer pressure is the leading cause, and it has been that way since I was a kid, and it will be that way forever.

Bottom line, be glad kids are reading. It's a much better option to video games and the overt violence there. Leave literature alone.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Is There a Story Here?

It was suggested that this school setting would be a possible inspiration for writing. You would think that with a student body of near 1,000 students between the ages of 10 and 15 there would be some juicy plot to exploit. Well, one thing for sure is that there is plenty of conflict to be found. Sometimes, it seems that way, anyway.

I have toyed with the idea of writing some kind of story with a school setting or backdrop. Maybe focus on a teacher or a student, or a group of students. However, I have read very few MG/YA novels that I am not sure if I should do it. I know I can do it if I put my mind to it, though. I've proven that to myself over the years. Maybe I should. We'll see. I'll use this school year to revise KILLER EYES. But I will keep my eyes open for a good story during the course of this year, and when Summer comes, it could be that I'll be ready to write it.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


The one thing that hurts most in regards to a day job is that it cuts bigtime into my writing time. Yesterday, I didn't get anything completed in revisions to my WIP. I don't bring a laptop to school or a flashdrive with the manuscript on it. I live in two worlds, really. One is at home, of course, with an office in my house and my HP desktop, which I use for 99% of my writing. The other is my classroom(s) where I use my computer for school purposes, or reading blogs and other information sources.

But I really can't write anything creative on the job. When you have over 150 students that you're teaching and another 800 students around, most of whom you've had at one time or another, it's all about them.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Writing Contests

Janet Reid's blog has what I think is the perfect writing contest. It's a 100 words or less writing contest, and she requires the use of five preselected words. I never entered one until yesterday. The five words she required in yesterday's contest compelled me to enter. They were absolutely perfect words: Headgear, Nemesis, Sinister, Minion, and Heinous. I mean, how could you not enter a contest with those words?

And with only 100 words or less, it's not something that would take you all day. It was only a matter of minutes of my time. So I wrote a paragraph and revised it a bit, and here's what I submitted:

The man in blue crunched the headgear and strapped it tight. He ignored the wails. I was but a minion watching from afar, and the cries were unbearable. Mothers cradled infants, and soldiers, pummeled into soulless husks, dropped to their knees like wheat scythed in spring. Our nemesis, an overreaching bloc of sinister origins, snared an unlikely victory, and the only one who stood for a cause awaited his end. But we should have expected it. Once the bridge to our homeworld collapsed, nothing short of nuclear war would have stemmed the heinous tides of crawling encroachment and dark transformation.

The man in blue is a government official, like an executioner. I considered that executioners usually wear black, but this is not a typical earthlike setting, as "...the bridge to our homeworld..." suggested. Besides, I thought "man in blue" sounded better than "man in black" or just, "the executioner." When I write I want the words to sing, and it seemed to sing better that way. I'm hoping that the scenario was explained sufficiently when I wrote, "...and the only one who stood for a cause awaited his end..."

So, what we have in this paragraph is an impending execution by a force of otherworlders who have recently taken over another society. No, it's not a WIP, or an excerpt of anything I have on the table. It's just something that came to me as inspired by the five words. It was fun.

Monday, August 23, 2010

School Starts

Back to the day job. Good thing the first draft got done. Over the weekend, I even got through the first four chapters of the first round of revisions. Don't expect to have that done any time soon, but for me the revision stage is the most fun, because even though you're improving your prose, you still add new elements to the story. Can't wait to get home and get back to it. Meanwhile, it's time to greet those wonderful kids.

Friday, August 20, 2010

First Draft Done

I did it. My goal was to finish the first draft of my WIP before school resumed, and got it done just under the wire. KILLER EYES clocked in at 89,251 words and 322 pages. Now, for me, the fun really starts. No, I'm not talking about facing all those wonderful students come Monday. I'm talking about REVISIONS!!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Back to the Day Job

So here I am at good old Monroe Middle School. My classrooms are set up and ready to receive all the wonderful students. Well, school starts on Monday, but the teachers report today, in about a half hour from now, actually. But I always arrive early. It's a good habit. I'd like to believe I'd always beat any deadline if I had one as an author. Heck, my first two novels are completed and waiting to be published, and the first sequel is being wrapped up at this time. I didn't quite finish it yesterday, so hopefully when I get home I can finish the first draft. That would be a time to celebrate. Of course, then the real work begins. Revisions.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Looking Back

How appropriate that the final song to my 13th volume of music I wrote years ago is called Looking Back. It's because I am so very near completion of my first draft to my third novel. I could stay up late and finish it now, but I don't dare. I have got to get to bed now, and stop this bad habit of writing all night.

But when you have two sons, aged 14 and 8, who demand your supervision lest they tear up the house, and a wife who you've been married to for 21 years, you find you get the most done when everyone else is asleep.

I can finish the first draft tomorrow. In the meantime, Looking Back does tell a little about my vision of a life lived, and a death that is inevitable.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Feeling Good about WIP

Just hit page 301, and surpassed 83,000 words. The third climax is finished. That was my solution to tie all the loose ends. It was how I answered the question of how can I bring all these subplots together. I needed three separate climaxes. Is that even allowed? Are stories allowed to have more than one climax? Is having three climaxes going overboard?

I hope not. Because it's the only way I was able to make all my subplots and side stories work. I was thinking I had too many characters, and too many subplots...how was I going to tie them together? But I did. At least, I think I did. I'm still wrapping up the denouement, and after that, I still have a final chapter to write. It's the conclusion to the story of Trent Smith, the world's greatest martial artist.

I know a lot of heroes have books that number in the megazoids, like Tarzan...sheesh, how many Tarzan books did Burroughs write? Over twenty for sure. But Trent Smith...I think will end at two. Doesn't have to be. I mean, after I write this conclusion, I'm sure I might find a way to get another story told in there somehow. But I'm not going to write it until the first one gets published. Hopefully, my agent can make it happen. So until then, the story will stay at two, and the conclusion will be written now.

(Well, not right now. I got to get to bed. When school starts, I can't be in the habit of going to sleep this late anymore. Tomorrow sounds good.)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Getting it Done

WIP: 80,000 words, and on page 288. Just past two climaxes and still one to go. Well, it's in the denouement stage now, and there are many things that need to be resolved.

First of all, the drug. I never talked about it, but a drug, a very special drug, is introduced in the first book, Killer of Killers. That part of KOK was never resolved, and it's one of the reasons I wanted to write a sequel.

Second of all, Trent's first love. Yoshiko Wada. She is the granddaughter of his Tokyo Shihan, and quite a fighter herself. She has a very small part in KOK, because KOK begins well after the MC, Trent Smith left Japan. Mostly the reader sees her in flashbacks. But in Killer Eyes, she has an active role, even though it remains relatively small.

And lastly the antagonist. There are many, actually, in Killer Eyes, as there are in Killer of Killers, but the main one in the sequel is the Chinese leader of the Killers Guild. She is one tough cookie. She is in and survives both climaxes, and I do insist on tying loose ends. Thus, her affection for Trent peaks, and she can't have anyone in the way. That doesn't bode well for Yoshiko.

There is also another loose end I am tying up. Yes, I do believe in tying these loose ends, and I was at odds for a while trying to figure out how I was going to do it. It wasn't easy. It took a lot of mental struggling with the plot, the subplots, the characters, and their interactions. But I am very near the conclusion. I do believe I'll have the first draft wrapped up by next week.. Just in time for the start of the school year.

It looks like the novel will be close to 90,000 words. KOK ended at 89,000, so it will be a good match. But hey, it's just the first draft and so I haven't even read it through one time yet. KOK's first draft ended at over 100,000. But after so many revisions, it trimmed way down. That's OK. It's what revisions do. So I really have no clue as to the final word count of Killer Eyes. It's still a 'wait and see' deal.

Friday, August 13, 2010

What Did You See?

The ninth song from Rockin' the Afterlife is up now. Had a lot more trouble picking a picture for this one. I choose random photos from the internet. (With the exception being Kings Will Rise Up, which I used a medieval painting.) But I wanted a picture of someone asleep, and I wanted it to look like they were dreaming, and at the same time portraying them as seeing what they were dreaming in a cognitive manner.

Normally, I don't want to put up another artist's painting or drawing, because that would be like a writer putting up someone else's writing to make their point. Even if they credit the other writer, I think a writer should use their own work, thus, if I would use a painting other than one of my own, I would only use one from the old masters. (Or one like the medieval painting.)

I was going to use Giorgione's painting of the Sleeping Venus, because the first three lines of the song, "When you laid down, you had a dream, you closed your eyes..." seemed to fit the painting. But after I pasted it in there, it looked like she was playing with herself, so I decided against it. (Didn't know they were that risqué in the 1500s!)

I ended up finding some new age work, and it seemed to fit what the words of the song were saying, so whoever did that visual, which I don't even know who it is, I hope you don't mind.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Just Keep Writing

WIP: 70,000 words and page 260. I was stuck for so long, I nearly quit. Not really. But I did use every reason to take a break from my WIP. It's not completely fixed, but hey, it's not done. Not even the first draft, so it's OK.

I think I forgot one of my own rules. Get all the pieces down before you try to fit the puzzle together. I mean it makes sense right? I was trying to put all the pieces neatly in place before I had them all on the table. I have to stay the course. I only have one more week before teachers report for duty. Actually, I better get over there and make sure my classrooms are in order before that.

Yes, I said classrooms. I have two classrooms. If you ever taught, or even took Ceramics, then you know why I need a second classroom to teach my cartoon class. IT GETS DIRTY IN THAT CLAY CLASS! Too dusty. Whoa! Thank goodness I have a great administration that ponied up two classrooms.

So...can't complain. Just hope the custodians put all the tables back. Wait a minute, this is a writing blog not a school teacher blog. I was trying to say that I'm not going to worry about making everything perfect until the first draft is done. I'm hitting the first climax now, but I will have a second climax coming up. It's one of my solutions to the split outline I ended up with. Let's see how it all plays out. Right now, Trent Smith, my MC just hurdled a major hump in Minnesota, but he still has to rescue his Japanese friends in New York.

Once I get to that point, I should know if it fits together. So...KEEP WRITING!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Just got the eighth song up on the Lyrics page. Plus I figured out how to put better images in there. (Yeah, I'm still a novice at this, but who will show me? My wife is a Dental Assistant. She expects me to show her.)

Anyway, for those who have time to check out my lyrics to Rockin' the Afterlife, I added some customized images above the words, instead of my eyes that were there before.

It's all just an excuse to break from my WIP which I am really down on right now. I might have to start over...almost from scratch...I changed so much from the outline, that now I wish I never did an outline.

I thought that writing my third novel would be a lot easier than the first two. Guess what. It isn't. It's harder. Now there's a WTF moment. A real one. Damn.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Back Story, Oh No!!

We live by rules and we write by them, too. Yesterday, I listed some that others have passed down from their experiences. One thing I found out for myself is that keeping a story fast-paced is a vital ingredient to a successful novel.

There are many ways to say it. Tension on every page, or torture your protagonist, but one thing you have to watch out is the back story. Yes, it has it's place, but I am finding that in my WIP, I keep putting in back story, which slows down the pace.

It's necessary to do it sometimes, but you gotta watch it. Don't let it slow down the pace. I just revised a part where I used back story. I changed it to dialogue, and in doing so, I think I prevented a slowing down of pace. I'll have to reread it tomorrow and confirm it holds up. If it does, I will go back everywhere I have put back story and see how the pace holds up. It it doesn't then I will consider options that include changing it to dialogue or even deletion. Someone said once the delete button is your best friend when it's time to revise. Heck, I'm not even revising yet, and here I am revising. I should get this first draft done, but if you see something you're doing wrong when you do it, you may as well fix it right then, if you know how, that is.

Another term for back story is information dump. Be careful with that. I forget who termed that, but it is a good way to say it. You can't bog down your story with a dump!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Writing Tips and Advice I Like

I get all kinds of tips from other writer's blogs, and mostly they have been very good tips.

We've heard the same ones over and over again, like:

Don't use similes
Don't use adverbs
Don't use passive voice
Show don't tell

But here are ten others. I forget where I got them from, but it was probably from someone Nathan Bransford linked. Just letting you know I didn't make them up. But for this post and for this blog, I did take the liberty to shorten the explanation.

1. Write the sentence, not just the story
-this means that you have got to pay attention to each individual sentence, as opposed to the whole story. Make each sentence unique and special.

2. Pick a better verb
-we've all heard this one before. Use the best verb, and hopefully, you won't need an adverb. (Although I still say adverbs have their place.)

3. Kill the Cliché.
-if you want to be original, and you do want to be original.

4. Variety is the key.
-change your sentence structure and lengths, so they don't seem the same throughout your manuscript.

5. Explore sentences using dependent clauses
-this was a great tip, which I never heard before.

6. Use the landscape
-not only to describe your scene, but your characters and your action.

7. Smarten up your protagonist
-meaning the mc can give you a lot of information by knowing what's up.

8. Learn to write dialogue
-this of course is part of the craft.

9. Write in scenes
-don't skip to another scene before the one you're on is completed with a good break.

10. Torture your protagonist
-this is something Donald Maass stressed in his book on writing the breakout novel. TENSION on every page.

Compare those to George Orwell's Writing Advice:

1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
-Yeah, we got that one by now.

2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
-I agree, but there are exceptions, see rule no. 6.

3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
-I realized this is particularly true for the word, "the."

4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
-This has been drilled home by now, too.

5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
-good advice, especially when you write things about science, and in both of my first two novels, and my wip, I do.

6. Break any of these rules sooner than saying anything outright barbarous.
-there are always exceptions to every rule.


Friday, August 6, 2010

Just Do It

Back to the outline. It's amazing how I wrote my first novel with no outline. KILLER OF KILLERS needed a lot of revisions, though, over a year's worth, but still, the first draft flowed.

When THE VASE worked just as smoothly with an outline, and without the major adjustments KOK had, I figured the outline was the way to go.

So, after I wrapped up THE VASE, I proceeded to write the sequel to KOK with an outline. AARRGGHH.

I've documented how I've struggled with changing the events. I thought I had it hashed out. But you know what? It's back to the drawing board. No, I'm not starting over again from scratch, but I am REWRITING THAT OUTLINE. Instead of trying to insert this and delete that, I am putting it all down on the original outline, and from there, I'm making sure everything works just right. The people need to be in the right place and at the right time. They have got to have the right motivations to do what they do, and everything must be timed just right.

I don't want any of the WTF moments to be lost in the resolution. (Apologies to Nathan Bransford for borrowing that term.) And yeah, it's a reference to the show Lost, that he talked about on his blog.

Anyway, I believe in tying up loose ends, and if takes longer to do it, and more of an effort, then JUST DO IT! I've got two more weeks to kill before the teachers report for duty, so let's see if I can wrap up this first draft by then. But I promise this: I won't cop out on a logical and satisfying conclusion. This is my baby after all. So it's got to be as good as it possibly can be.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Lost and Winging it

On Nathan's post, he talked about the TV show Lost, and focused on the disappointing conclusion of the show. My comment was that everytime I watched the show, it made me angry and that it was clear to me the writers were just winging it the whole time.

That doesn't work for me. If a writer or show is just winging it, they should keep track of the loose ends and tie them together by the time it's done. It's one of the things that I have talked about recently on my blog, and it's one of the reasons I have been bogged down on my WIP. I am insisting on tying all my loose ends by the conclusion of the story.

ONE EXCEPTION. That would be if there is a sequel planned, in which the writers intend to tie everything together at that point. Like Lord of the Rings. At the end of part one and part two...nothing was resolved, and of course it was OK, because everyone knew that part three would sew it up. There are other examples, too.

Someone mentioned the show TWIN PEAKS, and I will say that it wasn't TWIN PEAKS' fault not everything was resolved because the network cancelled the show before its conclusion.

With Lost, imo, they never intended to explain it all. They banked on the show's popularity, and then when the show outlasted itself, they threw together an ending as if to say, 'Well, that's all folks." But like I said; that doesn't work for me.

I have so many loose ends in my WIP, Killer Eyes, that I am struggling to tie them all together. I got by the road block, by making one of the antagonists return to New York rather than staying in Minnesota. That will force the conclusion to occur in New York. But it will tie up the subplot that involves her and the reader won't be left hanging with the events that involved her.

It made for a great deal more effort from me, and as a writer, I accept that challenge. For the writers in Lost, hey, they already had their paychecks. It wasn't important to them.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

What makes a Hero?

Heroes do heroic things of course, but what makes a great hero? Going up against great odds, of course, like I talked about before. But a hero is not only remembered for the heroic deeds, but also for WHY he or she does them.

We remember King Leonidas and King David thousands of years after their heroic acts. The name of George Washington will never be forgotten. But they didn’t do it for personal gain. They did it for the preservation of freedom. That’s a reason that can't be topped. Of course there are several great motivations that spawn heroism. Fighting for a loved one or loved ones is a usual one. Saving someone who needs saving is up there.

In fiction, who are the greatest heroes, what were the odds they faced, and why did they do it?

Well, most cop stories and the like are related to a battle against crime. James Bond did his thing for his country. War stories offer the obvious: Kill or be killed.

In some stories, the protagonist wants riches and adventure. Like treasure seekers, say. I would question the term hero applied to them. But if monetary gain is the main objective, the protagonist better have a compelling back story that makes him or her appealing to an audience. Otherwise, why should a reader care?

Trent Smith, in Killer of Killers and Killer Eyes, fights for one reason. Justice. He wants no money, he wants no fame, and he doesn’t’ even care to be recognized for his trouble. In fact, he prefers to keep a low profile. With today’s cell phone cameras and videos, it's not so easy, and he is starting to get recognized. That makes him an easier target for the bad guys. But these bad guys better be up to the task. Trent Smith is not so easy a target.

Right now, things are cracking in Killer Eyes. I have found the solution to my mid-story bog, and it’s time to pay the piper. And that means for everyone in the story. Let the fireworks begin.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Now You're There - In the middle!

Song number seven from Rockin' the Afterlife is up now. Actually, it was up yesterday, but I forgot to mention it. Don't know if anyone believes in the afterlife or in reincarnation, but that is the theme of the album. Still working on getting the soundtrack put into the blog. I would love for anyone who wants to hear it to be able to hear it. It's in the future.

And that title, (Now You're There) is applicable to where I am when it comes to writing my novel, I'm at that sticky stage. Yeah, I'm still coming to terms with the new stuff I put in that wasn't in the outline. The funny thing is I didn't have this problem for either of my first two novels. I was able to start and zip on through to the end. Again, one was not outlined and one was. I felt that with the outline, I would have a concrete blueprint to follow, and it worked like that with THE VASE. I followed the outline from start to finish. Sure I put a couple new things in that weren't on the original outline, but it didn't change the course of the story. That's what happened this time. The course of my story has changed, and I can't adhere to the outline...well, I'm trying to. I'm trying to make it work. I talked about it yesterday. I said you just got to try harder.

Here's where my snag is. The climax of the story is supposed to take place in a large biochemical laboratory. (As it did in the first book.) But I have to get all the key character over there to make it happen. Trouble is the lab is in Minnesota. The key characters are in New York and San Francisco. And I have so many characters, I feel like I'm swimming in characters...drowning even.

So each character has got to have a good reason, a believable reason, to go to that lab in Minnesota. Every time I think I have the answer, I think of something that makes it not so believable. But the thinking cap is still on. I am committed to this story. It is, after all, my favorite character. And I do have the ending down, although not on paper yet. I may write it sooner than later if I can't unsnag this middle.

Monday, August 2, 2010

What a wonderful weave, those subplots

Subplots, don't you love them? You better, because without them the story is probably flat. It most likely lacks complexity. Subplots forge direction to your climax and they make your characters real. We see another side to them. We see other aspects of their personality. Different skills, emotions, and talents of your entire cast can be divulged in subplots.

In my WIP, I started to think I had too many subplots going on and too many characters. When I made my detour in the main plot, I started to panic about how I would connect all the dots. It put me on hold for a while. I talked about it already. But the solution is NOT to get rid of the subplots. Or the extra characters. The solution is to think harder to make them all fit together.

Sure, maybe a character or a scene can be deleted from a story if it ends up adding nothing, but whether you do or don't, you gotta make it work. You can't leave any loose ends. When your first draft is finished, one of your revision passes must focus on tying any loose ends. That includes that pesky minor character who was a thorn in the side of your MC, even if he was part of a subplot. Don't just forget about him, hoping your readers will, too. Tie that loose end.

If you throw something together that's easy to write, chances are it wont be a very interesting story.