I’m editing Destructive Magic and this is my second pass through the book so I thought I’d share what I’m doing to polish it up.
Ruthless deletions! (Yes, I am a mean editor). I may have loved the scene when I wrote it, but if it doesn’t move the story along, it’s highlighted and deleted. I don’t try to “make it fit” if it doesn’t naturally do it. I call it my “slash & burn pass” because I use delete more than any other key on the computer. There’s a downside to that: Once I delete, I have to rework the scenes surrounding the now missing scene so the story flows. Here’s how I do that:
I read the “Previous scene that gets to stay” and ask these questions: Where is the character physically, emotionally, experience-wise? Where do I need to get her? What does she need to learn/struggle with/lose in order to get to the next scene?
The next thing I do is take away something she needs to be successful. There are two ways to do this: One, delete it. Two, give the “oh, crap! moment” where the character realizes it (usually the realization comes too late for her to fix it). This is where I give the character voice so you know a little more about her. Does she lament the loss/lack of something or does she find another way to cope without it? Does she get mad and throw a tantrum or does she just give an eye roll and move on?
Then I read the “Next scene that gets to stay” and ask: Is the character prepared to be there? Should she be? Usually, she shouldn’t be prepared in my novels, so I focus in on what she needs and how not having that makes it harder for her or how not being prepared puts her in a dangerous situation. Then she has to figure out how to get out of the scene and into the next one (Providing I didn’t delete that one as well).
I think of two types of editing: Story driven (including the technical aspects) and Character driven. This part of my editing is story-driven because I’m moving the plot along (a technical skill), but once my scenes are cut to the bare minimum, it becomes more character-driven because it lets me show the reader what kind of character they are cheering for. Deleting scenes for me helps me stretch the characters and bring depth to them. It’s not where we are but how we react to our surroundings.
I have no problem deleting things and sometimes I have a separate document called “(title of book) deletions” just in case I get carried away. The purpose isn’t for the reader to read every single word I’ve ever written – it’s to take the reader on a journey with a character they know and can identify with. Unnecessary scenes distract from that goal and leave the reader asking the deadly question “where are we going with this?”
My delete key is feeling neglected, so I’m off now to get rid of some more scenes. Happy editing!