I may have posted this quote before, but I think it is awesome enough for a second run.
What lasts in the reader's mine is not the phrase but the effect the
phrase created: laughter, tears, pain, joy.
If the phrase is not affecting the reader, what's it doing there?
Make it do its job or cut it without mercy or remorse.
~ Isaac Asimov
I love, LOVE, this quote. Cutting material is one of the hardest parts of writing. Especially when the stuff you are cutting isn't bad. Sometimes it's really good stuff! But it may not be doing its job for one reason or another and so....it has to go.
When I started out writing (for the purpose of publication, in any case), I had pages - a LOT of pages - that I needed to cut in order to get the pace of my story moving. It wasn't bad stuff. Most of it was description. Really beautiful description (if I do say so myself *ahem*). But it didn't do anything for the story. It wasn't needed to help the plot along. In fact, I was describing rooms of a house that the character would never go in. It certainly didn't evoke any kind of response in my readers, except perhaps boredom, which I REALLY wasn't going for.
So, it got cut.
Now, that was a more clear cut case - but I've had instances that weren't as easy to spot. I had a conversation in my last book that I really loved. I thought it was funny and showed a playful moment between two of my characters. It didn't move the plot along - meaning, it wasn't introducing any new information about the stsoryline. But I ended up leaving it in the book, with a few tweaks. I did change it up a bit so that there were some plot-moving elements. The main reason I left it in the story was because, after taking a poll of all my readers, I found it was evoking the response I was going for. The parts of the conversation that weren't helping to evoke that response got cut. The stuff that worked, stayed.
Have you had material that you've really loved that you had to cut because it wasn't producing the desired response? Were you able to save it or did it end up in the great red-marked chop pile in the sky?