Content – When To Cut

You’ve worked diligently on your manuscript for months, maybe years, every word is where it should be, all of your scenes written perfectly to tell the tale. Right?

Wrong.

As you go back through to tighten up your book, it’s natural to find a few things that don’t flow. Maybe an idea you weaved in that didn’t go anywhere. So you tweak, cut, rework. These things are not so hard to part with.

What about entire scenes? Or even plot lines? Or whole characters?

It turns out that the first version of my book, after several beta readers gave me feedback, did not have as cohesive an ending as I believed, and in order to correct this, I’m going to have to cut out and rework some sentimental material.

The main beta reader takeaways were: Too many characters to keep track of, the main characters are scattered all over the map by the end, there’s too strong of a cliffhanger for an ending, nothing is really accomplished, and it feels more like “part 1” instead of book 1.

Ouch.

I’ve done a lot of research into how to end a series book, and there are no hard fast rules. However, there is one overarching guideline: Accomplish something/ tie up a main plot point by the end, reader advised.

This has forced me to reconsider a lot of things that happen in my book, and I’ve come to realize that in situations like this, huge chunks of writing may need to go away. Forever.

Sometimes, especially if you’re writing a series, when you’re really attached to the cut material, you can move it elsewhere.  Sometimes in can be saved.

Other times, it just has to go.

“But that character I introduce there is really cool.” Or “that fight scene that happens because of x, y, z is super engaging!” Or “so much information is revealed here.”

I know. I get it. But how do these scenes contribute to the overarching goal of book 1 (or 2 or 3)? Are they really important, or is it fluff? Is it “look at my cool writing skillz”?  Or does it reveal too much at once?  Is it an infodump?

In my case, I think I can put most of what needs to be cut out in a future book, change some names, etc. Even if I can’t, I have to gulp down my sadness and start slashing and reworking because the end result will be worth it.

My book 1 will feel like a book 1, instead of a part 1. And to my readers who have to wait on book 2, that is an important gift to leave them with as an author:  The desire to know what happens next, but closure for the time they have invested.

To sum it up, as an author we need to come to terms with our purpose for writing.

Are we writing for ourselves?  Then keep all of your scenes exactly as they are.

Or are we writing to tell a story to other people, who will then want to share it with their friends?  Then we’re going to have to evaluate each scene, each plot line, each character, and do some cutting.

We’re all in this together.

Happy writing!

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