Adventures in Revising(4): Revising Scenes/Getting rid of unnecessary Scenes

(NOTE: These posts are meant as friendly advice from my *personal* experience but might not always be applicable to your work. If you have any fun advice to give, please add it in the comments! I’m always excited to learn new tricks of the trade from my fellow writers!)
Next up in Adventures in Revising…Deleting WHOLE scenes.These are my lessons in mapping out my story (this can happen either before or after you start writing, I happen to do it after because I am a pantser, so I use it as a revision tool).

When I map I use visual aids, either a pin-board with little index cards, or a visual file with all of my plot points:

Mapping out your story

(A fun editing software could help with this. *cough* someone may have recently written a blog post about this software *cough*):

Make a Plot Map – Obviously this is the most important, if something contributes to driving the plot forward, then its usually safe from deletion (but not from revision!). Make sure that every piece of the plot is laid out in a way that the reader can follow (even if the book is a twisty, psychological thriller, if the reader can’t piece it all together by the end then it’s not really working).

You can split these into subplots if you’d like (I used subplots such as World Building, War, Illness for my old MS since it has a lot of interlocking plot points).

Make a Characterization Map – Characterization is so key in a story! Any scene that adds to characterization can get preferential treatment (i.e. are the last to be deleted when doing overhaul revisions). However, make sure that the characterization scenes fit into the flow of the book. Are you constantly going off on tangents to explain that your character is “strong” “quiet” “rebellious” “sweet”? If so, then try to find other places to sneak those tidbits in. Any time a character is reacting to others, you can try to push in some key characteristics since a “strong, rebellious” character would react differently than a “sweet, quiet” character.

Make a Love Story Map (if necessary) – anything that adds to the development of the love story can probably be kept in, since us YA readers love us some romance. But be careful, if the story is not all about the love story, and these scenes happen to take up 60% of your book, then consider deleting a few, or just parring them down significantly. We don’t need a dozen kiss scenes to understand that two characters are attracted to each other.

Make a Backstory Map – this is information that adds to the story, but didn’t happen during the story (I know, you’re probably saying “duh, Kat, that’s why it’s called backstory”). Make sure none of these scenes are pure info-dumps and that they are fitting dynamically into the story. Some authors try to use flashbacks for these, but too many could clutter your story.

It could be that some of the backstory is just for you, it’ll help you write your characters and world better, but it’s not necessary for the reader to know it. If so, then scrap those scenes.

AFTER YOU’RE DONE –  Are there any scenes that don’t fall into any of these categories? Look at those scenes very critically. Could it be that it’s a scene you wrote before you finished plotting out the story and now it doesn’t fit in? Are you only keeping it because you’re attached to the scene/writing? Is there no way for it to be re-written in order to fit into one of the above categories? 

If the answer to all of these is “YES” then I’m sad to tell you that you can probably trash it (but keep it in a file for later stories! <– Advice from Axie)

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