I don’t write a scene until I know why I’m writing it, what happens, and how it’s advancing the plot, or the characters. Not because I’m so exacting, but because I hate edits with the zeal of an over-caffeinated Mary Kay rep. No, really. I aspire to the Linda Howard school of editing – write, go over it once and done. I’m not there yet (as my critters will tell you, when they finish chortling), but it’s a goal.
Because of my process, I very seldom have what I call, ‘orts’ – scenes, or pieces of scenes that are cut from the manuscript. But in my current WIP, I remembered a scene that was cut from my very first book in one of the 8,423 edits before I sold it and it became Her Road Home. It was a pizza joint date – and I wanted my current couple to go there. I imagined I could cut and paste, change the names, change a bit of the character’s voices, and be good to go.
Um. Not so much.
In reading that scene over, I could see how my writing has gotten better. The scene didn’t suck, (I mean, after 8,423 edits how could it?) but I can see little changes I can make to improve it. I thought I’d show you the before and after here. Maybe it will help your final edit process.
Laughter, talk and music from a jukebox somewhere combined to make quite a din.
She walked into wall of warm air laced with the smell of yeast and spices. Voices and laughter overrode a jukebox blaring, ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’ from somewhere in the dim recesses.
See how the first is ‘telling’, where the specificity of the details in the second actually puts you in that pizza joint?
Before: (the name of the place is Yukon Pizza)
“What’s pizza got to do with Alaska?” Ian said, holding the door open for her.
“What’s pizza got to do with Alaska?” He held the door open for her.
There are only two of them in the scene at this point, so I can drop the tag. After all, the ONLY time you need a tag is when the reader would be confused as to whom is speaking. Do you see how it brings the reader more into the scene? Look closely at your tags. They’re distancing too.
Then I read it over one more time, and came up with another small change.
After – after
“What’s pizza got to do with Alaska?” He held the door.
This scene is in her POV and the next line has her walking through the door. So I also can lose the boring physicality. Small nit-picky stuff? Maybe, but this stuff wears on a reader.
After they’d enjoyed several more songs, Mac tapped his watch reminding her that they’d better get moving if they wanted to catch the show.
There wasn’t one. I cut the whole thing. God, I knew this exercise was going to be embarrassing. Let’s see, what’s wrong with that? Anyone want to tell us in the comments?
I learned something from this exercise. That breaking a huge manuscript into scenes, and using laser focus and a brutal red pen makes a big difference.
What do you think? Have I convinced you how important the seemingly tiny details are?
RT August 2014 - 4 ½ Stars TOP PICK!
Drake does it again, with a terrific contemporary western. She takes this time-honored format and injects such fully formed characters and realistic scenarios that you might think it is nonfiction dealing with everything from PTSD to the aging athlete, all while giving us a wonderful romance. Just top notch. While this is part of a series, the Sweet on a Cowboy books are completely independent of each other.
SUMMARY: Army medic Katya Smith is unable to get past the experience of losing a fellow soldier. She can’t go back to her unit until she can keep from melting down, so she takes a job as a medic for the pro bull riding circuit in an effort to recover her mojo. She doesn’t expect to become attached to the sport or the riders, especially the king rider of them all, Cam Cahill. Cam is a two-time world champion, but those years have taken a toll. It is time to retire, but he can’t imagine himself off the circuit. Katya does wonderful things for his body, but he is not certain he is ready for the things she does for his heart. She has made it plain this is a temp job, but if he could get her to stay, he can see a whole new future.