Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Cutting your scenes


When I woke up yesterday, I planned this mental to-do list in my head. I wanted to iron clothes before the house got too hot. I wanted to research dental insurance and I wanted to read a new book.

Nothing earth shattering.

If I'd written about my day, the reader wouldn't see much purpose for that scene and might be temped to yawn through it. (Aren't you?) I mean, come on, it wasn't like I was going to drive downtown and pound on all the doors at the mall and beg for a job. Or it wasn't like I was going to buy a plane ticket and go see my father one more time before he dies.

No--my scene yesterday would be the kind you cut out of a book.

When I reread some of my manuscript this week, I found a few of those non-purpose scenes. The MC had no goals--had nothing to achieve of any worth in them.

I had a choice--find purpose or cut them. Sad to say a few found themselves looking up from the wastebasket.

Have you ever found yourself writing scenes as fillers? As a way to add word count or to tell about some small news item in the MC's life?

I'll loan you my shears.

Did your delete key get a workout this week?

40 comments:

Susan said...

Hi Terri...It's true that we have to delete in our writing. Many times, when re-reading something I've written, I do the necessary editing. Tightening up is always good, in writing (as well as food intake. ha!) Hope your day goes well. Susan

jinksy said...

Luckily, when writing short, funny poems, there's never much left to cut! LOL :)

Katie Ganshert said...

In REvision and Self-Editing my James Scott Bell, he has this fantastic exercise to do with scenes! I think I'll blog about it. Basically, you pick out the ten weakest scenes in your book, rating them 1-10, 1 being the weakest. Axe numero uno. Then go through 2-10 and strengthen them by giving pov character an objective, conflict, and an outcome that hooks the reader. Obviously, that's the fast-forward version. I definitely should blog about it.

Lisa Jordan said...

Katie, I'd love to read that post, so write it! :)

I cut 9000 words out of my novel this week as I completely revitalized my story line. This decision made the story stronger and renewed my passion to write it. Each scene needs to move the story forward.

Lisa Jordan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rachna Chhabria said...

Terri..sometimes I find that certain scenes that I wrote during the first draft make no sense. Then, I get ruthless and snip it out of the WIP. Better me than my editor.

Jessica Nelson said...

In the past, I've definitely done this. I try to avoid it now! lol
Congrats on snipping away. :-)

Amy DeTrempe said...

I write filler scenes all the time and don't even realize I am doing it. When I go back and read to edit, I find myself cutting - a lot.

Lin Floyd said...

I've been editing my column that I'm writing ahead and cutting out words and sentences to tighten it up. Feels good.

kathy taylor said...

I've written conversations that will give life to a possible sequel, and ooops they may get cut. Great topic!

Jennifer Shirk said...

I haven't cut out scenes completely but i have cut things in the scenes that slow the pace down. A lot. :)

Shirl said...

*sigh* More stuff to worry about...

Actually, I've opted to just write mine for my own enjoyment. Uncle

Julie Musil said...

You're so funny! The scene from your life sounds as exciting as mine. Good thing we can write in all that excitement, right?

In my first novel, I deleted HUGE chunks. I liked them, but they didn't serve a purpose. I did save them in another file though, just in case I ever want to use it somewhere else.

Julie Jarnagin said...

I've had to cut plenty of scenes where my MC was getting out of bed and getting ready for her day :)

patti said...

LOVE those shears! At least our cutouts will have pizzazz!

Sigh. Yep, on Chapter 15 of The Rhythm of Secrets final edit. Why does my dear editor not love my author cutisms?????

Blessings, dear one.
Patti

Kenda said...

I need the shears not so much for cutting scenes but for too much backstory. I always seem to pack too much of that in there, and eventually have to cut it out :-)

Kara said...

I use the shears alot. I find myself writing out scenes that are really just me trying to get out the story, but later realize it was just me rambling:)

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

I tend to write too much and then go back and chop it down...(Asking myself, "Do I need this to progress the story?")

Terri, you won a random daily prize over at my blog party! Would you email me your address? skmayh at q dot com

Congratulations!

Melissa Marsh said...

No deleting yet for me - I'm just trying to get the words down and "cover the canvas." But when it comes time for revisions, I'll be chopping away!

Patti said...

That's a great way to look at it. I had a few scenes in my book that I loved, but in the end decided to cut them because it didn't advance the plot.

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Oh, I've definitely done this before. It usually happens when I start writing a chapter or scene at the beginning of the day without really having an idea why I'm writing the scene. When I don't have a direction and I'm starting of brand new in that scene or chapter, I've been known to meander around with dialogue or pointless tasks my MC has done and it takes me looking through it or cutting some of it to get back on track.

Nancy said...

When I go through my rewrites, I take out scenes that don't add anything. It's sad when you were particularly clever with a phrase or action, but it it's extra junk, out it goes.

KelliGirl said...

Since I tend to write things that have set word limits I tend to be a little more ruthless with the upfront editing. But there are times I'll reread something I wrote still find excessive words and paragraphs.

My husband is a ruthless editor, so I've learned a lot from him, too.

Happy editing. (Can't say the same about the ironing!)

Saumya said...

I have so many filler scenes because at some point, I had convinced myself that I neeeded them to serve as transitions. It's always helpful to reread and ask, "What is this really adding?"

And I love how you thought of what you were doing as a scene!! So awesome!

Jody Hedlund said...

It's definitely something I really try to pay attention to. I want to make sure each scene counts. Sometimes, though, it takes an objective person to see that it's not meeting the goal that perhaps we intended. Makes me so grateful for wise eyes of other writer friends!

Linda Glaz said...

Ouch! The hardest part about writing.

Sarah said...

Love your can-do attitude, Terri!

K.M. Weiland said...

One of the reasons I enjoy outlining so much is that it often (but not always!) helps me identify those unnecessary filler scenes before I ever go to the trouble of writing them.

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Terri -

In the early days of Book 1, a critquer informed me that my book started on Page 10. She was correct, and I deleted those pages.

Since that time, my delete key has developed muscles from frequent use. Hopefully, all those nice letter keys will get an equal workout. :)

Blessings,
Susan

paulgreci said...

Yeah, I've cut a lot of stuff. Glad you are exercising that delete key!!

Janna Qualman said...

Right. We can't be afraid to delete! It makes it better.

Go you.

colbymarshall said...

AGH!!! *runs and hides from scissors* I'm having to cut some things right now. I don't need them, but I liked them. *tear!*

Deb Shucka said...

Except I really wanted to know what book you were going to read. :-)

This is great food for thought, a nice reminder that every single word needs to move the story forward.

Judith said...

Dear Terri,

Thank you for visiting my blog site and leaving your comment which is deeply encouraging to me.

I am so sorry about your mother. In spite of the good Kingdom work that has been done in my life through it, I still hate this disease and the pain it can bring to entire families - not to mention the individual.

You probably already know these resources, but just in case you don't: I have a link in my Goody Bag story to Tony Snow's testimony which I found powerful. Also, if you do a Google search for "Don't Waste Your Cancer" written by John Piper with additional comments by Don Powlison, you or your mom might find help and comfort there. I used to refer to it daily and now I'm down to every other day. Chemo brain - I can't remember squat!

I love the way you engage your audience. Wonderful reading.

If you ever want to cry or scream or laugh or just be confused with someone who has experienced some of what you and your mother are experiencing, don't hesitate to email.

Blessings,
Judith

ginny said...

Even with blogging, I cut things out that I think would be of no interest to most people. You have to wonder if what you write is interesting for others to read. I researched dental insurance, and in the long run, it is a wast of money. You would be better off putting money away just in case you need dental work other than cleaning. (my opinion)
Hope your week is going better than last week that you commented on my blog.

K9friend said...

Isn't it the truth? And most readers can spot filler even without their reading glasses!

Pat
www.critteralley.blogspot.com

Just Be Real said...

Interesting post. Since I am not really a writer, cannot experience full force what you do. Thanks for sharing though. Blessings to you.

Rose Mary said...

I'll admit to writing 'filler' scenes. And then have to go back and throw them out. I think I write a lot of them on days that I'm really not very inspired to write, so I try to think of them as 'practice'. Mostly it's practice for boring writing, LOL! I hope I learn from them everytime I have to delete them.

elaine @ peace for the journey said...

I think ironing, insurance, and a good read make for a good day. All can be exciting when lived through fiction!

peace~elaine

Angie Ledbetter said...

Weeding the flower beds in the blazing heat gave me a mental jog on the importance of yanking out the bad stuff that covers up the beauties. :)