Imagine there’s a 500-word chunk of your story that you crafted, carefully shaping it to flow with the rest of the chapter and fit into your story’s themes. It may have taken you 15 or 20 minutes to write that section, read over it, make adjustments to wording or style, and move on to the next section.
But then something changes.
You figure out a way to better integrate those themes into a later scene, or in a different way. The story moves far beyond and above the now meager words in that block of text. Your cursor moves over it, highlighting it in soft blue. And then it’s gone.
Your word count jumps down faster than you could ever revive it, and those sentences you molded have disappeared into nothingness, with not even the shreds of graphite-stained eraser scattered over your desk in memoriam.
Erasing your own writing is hard. Unfortunately, it is something we must all face as writers, especially when we’re navigating the uncertain waters of revising a manuscript.
So just incase you need that extra push to press Ctrl + X on that extraneous section…
3 Reasons You Need to Cut that Scene
1) It holds up the narrative rather than moving it forward
2) You found a better way to demonstrate the same action
3) You discovered you didn’t need the scene at all
I’d like to expand on #3 a bit.
There is a pivotal sequence in WoEM leading up to the mid-story climax. One set of characters is running away, while another set of characters is chasing them.
In my alpha draft, I had one character catch up with the runners and warn them about the chasers. And that’s it. He didn’t really serve any purpose other than to tell the people who were running away that the people chasing them were near.
He was a middle man — a convenient plot device used to bring certain events and information to light. At first, I thought that this built tension in the story.
What will the runners do when they find out?!
You know what builds tension? When the reader knows that the chasers are bearing down on the runners, and the runners have no bloody idea!
It seems so obvious to me now, but it was not when I first wrote out this multi-chapter sequence.
So now, I get to cut out about 1,500 words of the middle man… middling in the story. I’m trimming the fat!
What’s the biggest section you’ve ever cut from a draft because it stopped serving its intended purpose?