Status: Drafting the fourth book in the PERILOUS series!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Deleting Scenes

I've had a lot of experience now deleting scenes. It started when I needed to chop 20K from Perilous. That ended up being about 60 pages! At first, it was really hard for me. I cut out some of the scenes that I thought were necessary, some of the extra POVs, and some scenes that didn't flow quite right.

And then I wondered why that was so hard. I'd always thought those scenes didn't flow quite right. Somehow, I couldn't bring myself to hit that delete button. Well, let me tell you, after that I became quite delete happy. I cut and cut and cut. And the result was fantastic! The story is tighter, more action-packed, extremely relevant.

So how do I know what to cut? Here's what I've looked for.

Is it realistic?

This was a big problem for me in Perilous, mostly because I wrote this book when I was 12. To my teenage mind, some of the things the girls did were perfectly logical. And who knows, maybe they were, because the girls at the time were also aged 12 to 14. But as an adult, I couldn't relate to kids who would act so irresponsibly. I changed the ages to 15 and matured their actions. All of the sudden, a lot of the scenes I'd included as a child no longer fit. They simply weren't realistic.

Does the story really need it?

Sometimes I'd write a scene, maybe even an entire chapter, with some exciting event, something to keep the suspense up in the story. The odd thing was, it really wasn't relevant to the plot. If I cut out the entire adventure, the entire chapter, it had absolutely no impact to the rest of my story.

Granted, many scenes we write can be cut out and the story can continue. But some of the scenes we write really do add to the quality of the story. Others drain it. If you're not sure...ask a reader. They'll tell you!

Do I need this character's POV?

As I've stated before, one of my biggest problems was trying to tell the story from everyone's POV. These were some of the hardest scenes to cut, because I wanted to tell the story from that POV. Sometimes I could bring out the relevant information by using another character who was present, showing the incident from that POV. Other times, though, there was no alternative POV to use. These scenes were hard to delete. But it needed to be done for the consistency of the story. I miss those POVs. But the overall quality of the story is better. It felt like a plot gimmick to throw in a different POV for only one scene in the entire book.

Do I enjoy reading it?

You would think this would be obvious, but to me it wasn't. Sometimes I'd write a scene and it wouldn't sit well with me. Everytime I'd read it I'd get that uneasy feeling in my stomach. But I'd think to myself, "It's just me because I wrote it. Nobody else will think this." Ha! Well, guess what! They notice it even more than you! When I realized my critiquers were pointing out the very scenes that I felt uncertain about, I realized I didn't always need to ask. If I didn't like it, the reader wouldn't either. This has been so helpful to me and allowed me to cut without even feeling guilty!

Now, there were scenes that got cut from Perilous that I wish hadn't. We cut an additional 10k to streamline the novel a bit more. And many of those scenes added dimension to characters, showed a little bit more of how they reacted to each other. But they didn't necessarily increase the tension and action. So...bye-bye.

The thing that helps me the most as I'm cutting is to save my deleted scenes. I like to think of it as in the movies: some scenes have to be cut. When you watch the deleted scenes on a movie, you can often tell why it was cut. Yet it's still fun to watch. Someday, I promise you'll be able to read these scenes. Then again, I might recycle them into other books!

For today's blog tour: An interview at Annette Lyon's blog, and a book review at Jaime Theler's! And don't forget to check out the contest details at the top of the page!


Jamie said...

Great advice...thanks for this post! I'm in the throes of editing, so I'm bookmarking this page as a reminder!

Jennifer Shirk said...

Oooh, I realy hate deleting scenes, but you're right. Those are GREAT points to keep in mind when editing. :)

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Those are good tips for cutting scenes and words. It's so hard when they're words we've worked so hard on, though. That's why it's great to have an outside opinion.

Arlee Bird said...

Deleting is so difficult for me, but what you say makes a lot of sense. It's good to have the outside readers to guide you. I become so attached to everything I've written I hate to dump it. I never get rid of anything entirely though. I cut and paste to a file. Like you say it might be useful in the future.

Tossing It Out

Jordan said...

Great guidelines! I'm editing now and finding the same things. (I've cut 3k from about 3 chapters in the last two days trying to streamline the ending. I don't know if it's enough, but for those chapters I'm getting to the point where you were before the last 10k cut. That and I don't know if the story will continue to make sense if I don't include these parts.)

Angie said...

That's good advice. I know on the novel I just revised, I would often think, "What is this scene doing here?" Then I'd cut it. It felt good.

Emailman said...

This is some awesome advice, Tamara :) I was so chuffed when my new MG novel came in at 42K. I didn't count until I finished it...lol...I was very relieved. I can't think of many places where it could be cut. As for my Truth Teller series :S That is definitely heading for a major slice up. I think I will need a chain saw :D

Tamara Hart Heiner said...

yay for cutting! it definitely does feel good.

Nicki Elson said...

I'm so glad you got over that cutting hump and that you're happy with the result! It gets quite addicting after a while, doesn't it?

Good idea saving the "deleted scenes" somewhere else though.

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