For the past few days where I live, the wind have been howling. Gusts blow strong enough to knock down our metal patio furniture and send our garbage cans halfway down the block. So when I heard a major crash outside, I figured it might be anything. It turns out it was our new firepit. The thing is HEAVY, and it went from one end of our yard to the other. The insert slammed into our cinderblock wall and folded in half like a taco.
I stared at the damaged firepit, noticing the tree beside it, and how frantically the leaves blew in the mad wind. Some of the weaker leaves had blown off, but most of them clung to the branches and would survive the wind. I thought to myself, how strange that those frail leaves hang on, when something as large and strong as a firepit goes flying.
My husband thought that was a strange thought to have. Leaves? What about our new ruined firepit? And did the thirty day warranty cover smashed-into-cinderblock-wall damage?
So here comes the writerly part of the post... it occurred to me as I helped lug the firepit to the garage (did I mention it’s HEAVY?), that story ideas can either be like that firepit, or like leaves on a tree. Maybe it isn’t wise to treat a manuscript as one massive entity, but better to understand that each scene is its own part of the bigger picture. Like those leaves, the strongest ideas hang on and survive the crazy wind. And in the end, rather than a story that’s flattened like a taco, you’re left with one in which only the very best ideas flourish.
It can be hard to let go of our carefully crafted scenes though! But sometimes a beautifully written scene doesn’t do anything to move the story forward. How can we know for sure if what we’ve written is weighing our story down, and threatening to send the whole thing into a cinderblock wall?
Here are some things that help me... (oh my-- another Diana List!!)
1. Send it to critique partners.
Do they mention that a particular scene doesn’t feel necessary? Or drags? Ask them to look at the story and help you make sure every scene matters.
2. Wait a week or so and look at the story again with fresh eyes.
With fresh eyes comes perspective, and distance from my work. I’m more willing to look at a scene and be willing to see it for what it’s worth to the story as a whole. The longer you wait before re-reading, the easier it will be to cut what isn't necessary.
3. Try removing the scene-- does the story still stand?
If so, it might not be necessary to your story. Every scene should not only character-build, world-build, and add layers and dimension, it should build momentum and move the story forward to its next plot point.
If we tighten up our manuscripts and make sure every scene counts, we’re more likely to end up with a page turner. And who knows? Those deleted scenes might end up as fun extras on our author websites someday ;)
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Diana Paz is a web content writer and aspiring YA author. She grew up on Miami Beach, moved to Los Angeles in high school, and went to college in San Diego. Basically, she's a beach bum, but she did graduate from California State University, San Marcos with a Bachelor's Degree in Liberal Arts. She loves old movies, epic fantasy, all kinds of music, and heading to the beach with a good book. Preferably sipping a caramel frappuccino. Find her at her blog: dianapazblog.blogspot.com or on Twitter @dianapazwrites