You're writing along and it's kind of a slog. Or you re-read a scene and realize it's flat. You write something thinking it is what needs to happen and it just doesn't work. Or you find that after "fixing" the last chapter, what you've done to the new one isn't quite right. What do you do?
Well, as the old saying goes, you can fix it. You can't fix a blank page. You can fix everything else. Here's the ugly part of that truth: sometimes fixing means hitting the delete key.
Before you curl into a ball, moaning about lost word count and hours and hard work down the drain, repeat after me: It's okay.
Sometimes, people, you need to cut away the bad stuff to get to the good. Sometimes you spend far more time trying to shoehorn a scene into doing what you want rather than cutting it and starting over.
If you look at your scene and you can figure out what's wrong, splendid, and carry on. But if after several attempts to make it better you still feel like it's not quite right, you might have to do the unspeakable. Get out the knife. If the scene is not doing its job, if it's not working and working hard to move the story along, complicate the conflict, show character and develop the romance...well, you know what you have to do.
So here's the good news. It doesn't have to be gone forever. You can save your deleted chunks to another file. This is a bit like a security blanket at first, and I do this a lot. Most of the time I do not even use the bits I deleted. But for example yesterday I deleted 10 pages - half a chapter - of my book and I know I will end up re-using probably 2-3 pages of it in a later scene. Gone doesn't have to be gone forever, unless it needs to be. And you don't need to trash it completely until you're sure.
Here's more good news. Cutting a scene that's not working can be liberating. "Finally," you can say, "I'm rid of this cumbersome scene that was tying me in knots." You're free to write it again - the way it should be written.
Cutting a bad scene means that you can cut out the "noise" that was keeping you from realizing what really needs to happen. It can mean things suddenly opening up in your story and the words flowing even better than before (which makes your lost word count lament rather pointless, because you're making it up big time). Suddenly things feel RIGHT.
Yes, this is yet again the voice of experience and it is not the first time I've had to do such a thing. I tried to make a scene work and all I did was make it worse. My CP made a suggestion that was brilliant - cut out the last 2/3 of the scene and leave the hero hanging. Pace wise everything picked up. And the tension was amped up considerably. Things feel RIGHT and rather than skimming the surface of things trying to manufacture tension, it stayed simple and complicated and added depth. All good things.
Don't be afraid to embrace the knife. If it's a mistake, you can always add it back in. But I'll guarantee you that 9 times out of 10 you'll be glad you did.
Happy writing this week! I'm racing towards the end. What do you want to bet that next week's post will be on editing?