novel writingWriting Fear Free

Writing Fear Free: Deleting Scenes

In novel writing, nothing ever disappears completely; it just gets rearranged.

I don’t know why, but somehow it always turns out the same for me. If I am really, really proud of a scene that I’ve written in a novel, I end up having to cut it.

It must be a law of Newtonian physics.

So how should a writer react when faced with the prospect of cutting the most incredible piece of writing ever?

Just do it.

Why? Shouldn’t I fight for my literary integrity? Shouldn’t I hold fast to my principles and keep it no matter what anyone says?

Well, let me ask you a question. Which is more important: providing your readers with the best book possible or assuaging your ego?

First, examine the passage in question. Does it advance the plot in the direction you are trying to go? If so, keep it. If not, cut it. Every single word, paragraph, page, and scene should serve to advance the plot or elucidate the character. Keeping a scene that does not serve these purposes just because you like it is not doing your book any favors.

Second, consider rewriting the scene. Sometimes you can revise the section in question so that it does serve your ultimate purpose and prevents you from removing the work you love so much. But do so carefully. Every scene must advance the plot.

Third, recognize that you can use the scene elsewhere. Maybe you can even build your next novel around it. Or maybe you can use it in a short story. If the scene is as great as you believe it to be, wouldn’t using it in a free short story generate interest in your novel? And if you had enough short stories of great cut scenes, wouldn’t it make a fine anthology one day?

Remember, in novel writing, nothing ever disappears completely, it just gets rearranged.

5 thoughts on “Writing Fear Free: Deleting Scenes

  1. Great idea to put them on the blog. I think some authors publish them as bonus material at the end of their ebooks. That’s a good idea too.

  2. I’m doing a pre-revision read of His Good Opinion, and I’ve already deleted Chapter 1, moved that content to Chapter 4, and combined chapters 13-15 into something that will only vaguely resemble its predecessors. Oh, and I’m only 1/3 through the manuscript. I’ve decided the only way to ensure a scene won’t be deleted is not to write it.

  3. Don’t worry. Just start a new document and give it a try. If it turns out you don’t like the new ending, big deal! You’ve still got a good one to fall back on. And you could end up with something you like even better!

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