Monday, May 26, 2008

The Ten-Point Revision Strategy - #10 Move the Story Forward

In the end, this is what it's all about.

Move the Story Forward.

Everything we've discussed so far, each of the previous 9 points, have all been aimed at this goal. Keep the story moving, keep the reader involved, or to paraphrase, Elmore Leonard, cut out the parts that readers skip.

Sometimes, in order to be true to this principle, we have to be cruel. In this current revision, I've cut out two of my favorite scenes, what were in my mind grand displays of my writing, because quite honestly, they weren't necessary.

In one scene, my hero has just finished a grueling Grand Rounds conference to get his research approved. In this scene, I have him working with a nurse, Mary, repairing a head laceration on a construction foreman, while he and the nurse discuss the Rounds. I loved that scene. It showed my hero in action, being very competent in the ER. It showed Mary's enthusiasm, and therefore all the hospital's support staff's, for the project, and the construction guy's random comments added a quick touch of humor into a scene that normally wouldn't be funny. I loved that scene.

There was only one problem. It wasn't necessary.

I'd already shown my hero in action in the ER, in a much more tense, character revealing scene. Chapter One to be precise. I'd already alluded to the fact that the hospital was abuzz over this pending research project. And as cute as the construction guy was, he was not a part of the story. In the end, after careful analysis, I realized that the only new bit of information the scene revealed was that the research project was being sent to a Bioethics Committee meeting for another review. This meant that our hero only had 48 hours to show results of his project before the Bioethics committee would cut him off.

Now that's a big point. Adding a time deadline always adds drama and tension to the story. We've got to get something done and we've got to get it done now. But I didn't need a 5-page scene of my hero sewing up some guy's head laceration to show this.

So I cut it.

I took that one simple necessary paragraph and inserted it into a brief memory flash our hero has while he's speeding in his car to his lab. He's got to get his work done because. . . And now the car is in motion, describing through movement, so the story is launching forward while I reveal this one point.

I hated to do it, but I think you can see just from this description that it makes the story better. The reader doesn't want to see another ER scene, they want to see the experiment. The whole book so far has been leading up to the moment this research begins, why would I want to stick another chapter in there, acting as a roadblock to what the reader wants?

Move the story forward. Kill off your favorite writing if it isn't doing that. Cut out the parts the reader's skip.

P.S. For those interested, I've taken the Ten-Point Revision Strategy and created an article for Writer's Digest. I'll let you all know when it's published. But in the meantime, keep moving your story forward.


The Writing Muse said...

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Nature Nut /JJ Loch said...

You did the right thing, deleting that scene, but it does sound like a great one. :D


Meghna said...

Oh, that was elaborated with a beautiful example. Even though it hurts you when you decide to remove some favorite part of the story written earlier thoughtfully, you have given reasons why it was not necessary to be kept to get it going. The power of revision!

I followed your entire 10 point revision strategy and found to be very useful. Thanks for sharing this!