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Website of author and professional editor Rachelle M. N. Shaw. Find information about her books, her editing services, and her blog, From Mind to Paper: On Writing and Editing.

From Mind to Paper: On Writing and Editing

From Mind to Paper is a blog for writers, editors, and those interested in the English language. It covers a multitude of writing topics, from punctuation and grammar to plot development, character development, and world building. In addition to in-depth articles about various writing topics, this blog also has a number of series posts, which are currently being transformed into a nonfiction series on writing.

Make Every Scene Count: Is It a Keeper or a Write Out?

Rachelle M. N. Shaw

Many times during the writing and editing process, you will find yourself facing the question, "Should I keep this scene or toss it?" It's important to first determine whether the scene is crucial to a plot. As a professional editor, my advice is generally to cross out any scene that does not propel the plot forward, develop a character, or create further conflict. However, we all have our scenes that hold sentimental value. When confronted with this type of scenario, there are two main options: write out the scene, or adapt it to the plot. The best choice depends on the particular scene. The following are some questions you can ask yourself when deciding whether to rewrite a scene or scrap it:

1. Does this scene in any way significantly alter the outcome of the plot? 2. Does this scene strain a relationship between two or more characters? 3. Is this scene in line with the personalities of the characters and the overall feel of the book? 4. If there is dialogue involved, does it serve a purpose, and is it in character of those speaking it? 5. Does the scene contain extraneous information that could not be derived from surrounding events alone? 6. Does this scene change the mindset of one or more characters involved in any way? 7. Does this scene resolve any previous conflicts? 8. Does this scene further the complexity of the plot?

"Yes" answers to any of these questions indicates there might be need for the scene and that adaptation of the scene might be best. The more "No" answers you have, the more likely it is that the scene is truly unnecessary and probably should not be kept. The only question that is completely under the discretion of the writer is number eight. While complex plots are intriguing, you will eventually have to draw the line somewhere so you can start solving the issues you've introduced. However, it's totally up to you where to draw that line.

So, is your scene a keeper, or is it a write out?