In life, as in writing, it’s hard to get rid of things. And while this seems like enough of a challenge on its own, things get even more difficult because it starts not to matter whether or not it’s something you like – sometimes you just need to cut things out. I’m finding this more and more true as I begin working on editing my novel while also getting preparing to move.
Sometimes there are scenes you love that are absolutely useless. Think of them like that Christmas gift your parents got you ten years ago – as much as you may have wanted it at the time (and you may even still want it now), it just doesn’t quite fit into your life anymore. It might be taking up too much space, or it might not match your new decor; either way, you need to get rid of it, if not to make room for something else, just to make your life easier.
We all have these scenes. I know they’re hard to get rid of, and have often been a part of your story for a long time, but you need to do it. It’s for your own good. If it makes you feel better, instead of deleting it entirely, try creating a new document called “Deleted Scenes” and pasting all of these scenes in there. Then you can read them whenever you’d like. (Note that I am not advising the real-life equivalent of this file. Do not throw all of your junk into a closet – take a picture and then donate everything to Goodwill.)
The flip side of this situation involves necessary scenes that are just plain bad. You know you need them, but you hate them, and you just can’t figure out how to fix them. They’re that horribly ugly piece of hand-me-down furniture that came from a family member’s attic – but you can’t just get rid of it because you can’t afford to replace it at the moment. (Though this may not apply to you, remember that I generally write from a poor college student point of view.)
There isn’t a story without a scene that needs to be rewritten, one you struggle with constantly: a “fixer upper” scene. You can’t throw it out, so, what do you do? The same thing you do with that piece of furniture you hate – you sand it down, repaint it, and stick it back in your living room. Though not necessarily the same for furniture, for writing I advise repeating as necessary. It’s the writing, rewriting, and editing that’s so important to your story (if you missed my earlier blog post on this, read it here). Sometimes you’re able to fix it up to the point where you’re comfortable, or you even like it, and sometimes you realize why it’s not working and you’re able to replace it with another scene that does the job better. Like any DIY project, rewriting can be hit or miss, but it can take a while to figure out how to make it work.
So those are the ideas I’m taking with me as I get started on my summer to-do list: if you don’t need it, get rid of it, and if you do need it, fix it up until you’re proud to have it on display. I hope you’ll take them with you as well.