scene evaluation in chapters

No pithy word count today. If anything, I’ve gone in the opposite direction and started axing scenes that do nothing to move the story forward. I finished chapter nine over the weekend, and while I’ve still got some touch-ups to do, I’m pleased with the draft. While I’m thinking about nine, I’ve gone back into chapter seven with my OWW critiques.

There were several scenes in seven that my critique group mentioned cutting. One gentleman estimated the chapter could easily lose a thousand words and still be good. I think he was being conservative. I had too many scenes that really did nothing to carry the story forward, but hung around the edges like excess fat. The scenes added a little flavor, but also tended to clog the artery of the plot.

I evaluate my chapters for the pivotal scene or information I want to convey then I try to make sure the rest of the chapter builds around that scene. I’m paying attention to my word count, so extraneous information has got to go. I like the way the story is tightening around my central characters and their issues with one another. The characters and their conflicts with one another are the heart of any novel; the way they resolve those conflicts reflects the soul.

The chapters are becoming shorter and the focus is narrowing on the pivotal characters. It’s hard work, but it’s really exiting to finally be reaching the end.

How do you evaluate what to edit and what to keep?


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6 Responses to scene evaluation in chapters

  1. Portia Sisco says:

    I read my work out loud. It really helps to hear it, and it’s easier to identify slow parts, clunkiness, etc., because it forces you to go slower.

    • Teresa says:

      Hello, Portia, thanks for stopping by!

      That’s an excellent suggestion. I also pick up on words that I leave out and poorly phrased dialogue when I read my manuscript out loud. I’m really forced to pay attention to my words.

      I hope you’ll come back.

  2. Kelly Bryson says:

    I have found that doing a drastic cut on paper and then reevaluating a week or two later when I make changes on the computer works well. I’ve been surprised at how often my brain will remember a good change before I refer to the paper.

    • Teresa says:

      I like that approach, too, Kelly. I read it completely differently on paper than I do on-screen. I can also see on paper where I’ve repeated myself than I can on-screen, so that approach really helps me lock down on editing. I also tend to scan a computer screen, but I read with more attention when I see the scenes on a page.

  3. jenniferneri says:

    Well this is my question of the morning, and in my frustration I have left it and I find myself blogging!

    this morning was supposed to be an editing morning, yet I cannot wrap my brain around it. Normally, at the point you are at, I make a little outline and everything has to move in this direction. Everything. Of course, things look different on different days. Grr.

    • Teresa says:

      I had to seek outside help from a different pair of eyes with mine. Even after I’d done all the diagnostics, I realized there was still something slightly off and I worried about my characterization. Turns out I had my protagonist and main character exhibiting emotions that were out of character for the circumstances. Some of the scenes were good, but just needed to be moved to a subsequent chapter. It was more a sense of timing than anything else.

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