During the editing process of my first novel, I learned a lot of things that have stuck with me as I self-edit my second book. All of them improve my writing, but having that inner voice over your shoulder can be a bit, well, annoying at times. “Moving the story forward” is one of those particularly evil concepts.
There were parts of Down in Flames I loved. LOVED. And my editor liked them, but they didn’t make the final cut. Why? They didn’t move the story forward. In other words, we took those scenes out and the story wasn’t affected by their absence. No one got confused or lost. Nothing was missing. BUT … BUT … I liked those parts??? Doesn’t matter. If your words – no matter how brilliant or beautifully written – are not moving the story forward then they do not belong in the final.
That brings us to my adventures in editing HMW. Because the publisher’s edit of Down in Flames took place after I finished the first draft of HMW, I’m coming back to my edits with a whole new wealth of knowledge … like it or not. As a result, I’m finding that I have to cut scenes – even the ones I REALLY like – because they don’t have anything to do with the story. It’s a bit, um, unpleasant to just delete these scenes I agonized over a few months back, but the funny thing is that a pattern is beginning to emerge. The scenes I had the most trouble with are the ones getting the ax!
Of course, not every tough scene is an unnecessary one. In fact, I’m currently mired in the exact opposite – one that’s so essential to the story that it must be exactly right. (Insert huge SIGH here). But if you are having a lot of trouble with a scene, it might be worth it to take a step back and decide if it’s really essential or if it could be inserted in another way. It’s a little painful to delete “time” (oh, the hours I wasted getting those words just right!) but when the result is a tighter story, it’s well worth it.
Even when it hurts.