The articles and books I read about writing usually relate to what I’m trying to achieve at any given time. A few months ago, I was editing a Romantic Suspense novel and I asked myself what to keep and what to chuck. In other words, it was time to be brutal.
As a writer, you know how easy it is to get stuck on bits of your writing that you feel a story can’t live without.
Taking out the sentences and paragraphs you feel are wonderfully written often lightens the prose, which makes for a better read.
Apart from taking out crutch words and unnecessary tidbits, I’m forced to look at each scene as a single unit. I check for the following things:-
^^Does it have a snappy opening line? One that will force the reader to carry on?
^^Does the middle live up to the beginning? Or does the scene start to drag?
^^Is any new information revealed by the end of the scene?
^^Does my character and plot develop?
^^And at the end, do I leave on a note that will carry the reader forward to the next chapter?
The checklist above can’t be applied while editing for grammar nits. It’s too important to lump with anything else, which is why most writers edit each chapter several times.
We all know it’s impossible to check grammar, movement of characters, continuity and sensory details in one go.
The last step for me these days is to test the validity of each scene. Does it need to be in there at all? If it does, are there extraneous bits I could stand to lose?
Sometimes I get all the excess material out and at other times, yet another round of trimming is required.
That’s when lean, fluent scenes emerge.