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When you cut a scene you like, save it

Posted by Maria Murnane | May 15, 2012

As you begin a novel, you may have an idea where you’re going, but you probably don’t know the exact route you’ll take to get there. I’ve now written four complete novels, and in only one of them did I (loosely) adhere to an outline. I’ve found that plot lines often take on a life of their own, and when that happens it’s best to follow them to see what happens.

This freewheeling approach can work well, but not always, and sometimes it can lead you to a dead end. If that happens, you may end up with entire scenes that you need to cut. Ouch. No author likes to cut precious words, much less entire scenes, but if they don’t fit, they don’t fit.

My advice is this: if you like a scene but don’t see a place for it now, cut and paste it into a new document. You never know where part or even that entire scene may come in handy, either later in the book or in a separate book entirely.

Save it for later- you never know!

This happened in Honey on Your Mind, which comes out July 24. I wanted to write a scene where a character visits a particular city, and I remembered that I’d once started a novel (never got very far) in which a character did just that. I looked the old scene up on my computer and was able to plop it right into my new book. Of course I had to massage it a bit to fit the new characters and storyline, but the visual descriptions saved me a lot of time. Plus, using the older material made me feel like that abandoned novel wasn’t a complete waste of time after all!

-Maria

This blog post originally appeared on CreateSpace.com. Reprinted with permission. © 2012 CreateSpace, a DBA of On-Demand Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved.

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5 Responses to “When you cut a scene you like, save it”

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  • Bill Cokas says:

    Another good use for (good) deleted scenes: author appearances! I’ve been to a few readings where the author pulled out a little scene that didn’t make the book, but served as an entertaining tease without giving anything away. Got plenty of those scenes myself. In that context, you don’t need to worry about “moving the plot forward” or “developing character,” you just need to hold people’s attention for a few minutes and intrigue them to find out more.

  • [...] When I was writing my first novel, I was so excited to see my own words on the page that I ended up with several scenes that didn’t have much at all to do with the main plot. After I signed with an agent, she pointed out this tendency to wander and had me cut a lot. I mean, a LOT. It was painful to hit the delete key, but I realized she was right. (Click here to read my post on what to do with scenes you cut.) [...]

  • [...] In this post I’m talking about repetition of information or concepts. Click here to read my post about what to do with entire scenes that end up on the cutting room [...]

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