A conversation I recently had with Southern Princess and Kelly Lyman (two of my awesome CPs) got me thinking about the way I go about writing, placing, tweaking and deleting scenes and I thought...perhaps you might like to hear my thoughts too?
If so...you're in luck. Keep on with the reading.
Scene Writing and Placement
What I mean by writing and placement is the way I kind of create my scenes and figure out where they go in my plot and how I work them in.
When I'm in my plotting/dreaming/planning/pre-writing/staring at the wall phase of writing, I tend to see a lot of my scenes flash very vividly in my mind...or I hear the dialogue clearly...or sometimes I see the words appearing on a piece of paper (yeah Im soooo weird). Anyway when I see, hear, visualize, read those scenes in the pre-phase etc, I of course write them down and record them exactly the way they came to me. I also get an intuitive sense of where each scene that comes to me falls in my story arc.
Then what I tend to do is sit down and write out a very detailed outline, recording every major event, revelation, or question asked in a chapter and with those handful of pre-planned scenes in mind, I write my plot to include them, and create consequences stemming from them.
But here's the important thing. Though I dream up my story in a non-linear kind of dream-like flowy way, I write in a very linear fashion. I have to go in order. I write in order, I revise in order...I cannot skip around because every sentence changes the next one, every mood affects the next mood, etc etc.
So when I do get to the point of writing in the scene I already recorded, I don't cut and paste. I write the scene fresh as if I'd never written it before, because there's no way a scene I wrote could actually just be placed inside my book...when you write a scene before you get to it (at least for me) you don't understand how the scene really fits into the grand scheme of things or the exact psyche of your character in that moment. You just had a skeleton. Now you can add the muscle. Or whatever. You had a seed, but that seed ain't gonna grow unless you put it in some soil. Or...
How about a puzzle analogy?
Imagine you pick up the prettiest piece of a puzzle and you know it goes somewhere in the middle...because you have the handy image on the box to guide you. Well sure you can put that piece down in the middle, but the chances of you putting it down in the exact perfect place and building the rest of the puzzle around it is not likely. Sure you might fit a few pieces there, but if you really want to kick some puzzle butt, you'll make the border first and spread out from there and chances are...this is going to shift your center piece a bit.
Ok. So basically, that's my stance on scene writing and placement. You can definitely know what's coming and what it will look like, but until you get there, you won't understand it or write it or shape it as well as you could have when it was just a floating scene in your head with no anchor.
Ok, the big one. How do you know when to keep a scene, keep tidbits of information or kill your darling?
There are A LOT of books on this and techniques and check lists and rules (if you can name 5 reasons you must have a scene, or if it does A, B, C etc you can keep it).
I'm not into that.
Those techniques are great for some people. But they don't work for me. My story is not a random pile of information that has passed through a bunch of check points, it's more organic than that.
So I basically have two reasons for allowing a scene to exist (because 2 is easier than 5).
Does the scene further the plot?
Does it reveal another element of your mystery?
Does it add another question?
Does your MC make an important discovery/gain new information/gain new skills/learn something/find something?
Does it get your MC from point A to B? Did you need to see them get from point A to B?
These are the general things I consider first.
And if the answer is No... then....I go to part 2
Does the scene reveal character or deepen character development?
This is important! Though I'm a heavy plotter, I feel my plot is very character driven, and so a lot of my scenes deal with the inner emotional arc of my MC. Bonus points if a scene both furthers the plot AND reveals character. But here's what I look at.
Does the scene show who my character is?
Does the character realize something new about themselves?
Does the character deny something important about themselves/their feelings?
Does this help the reader understand why the character is going to decide to do A, leave B, choose C?
So a little more simplified then a whole checklist, but...sometimes I feel the best things in a story ARE simple.
I also keep in mind my arc. I recently went back and forth on how to plot a certain scene--whether to make it a lot more intense, or keep it slightly neutral the way it is. My general philosophy is INTENSE INTENSE INTENSE! But...I realized...this scene needed to be more neutralized because it's a stepping stone to the next INTENSE scene and followed an INTENSE scene. Keep in mind too that your arc will have ups and downs, you need to have rising and falling action (though as the story progresses you will rise higher and fall lower). Which is why...I can't just write a scene in advance, I have to let my story mold itself and why I can't just use a checklist for why a scene should exist.
So...these have been my techniques that I developed over time and so far, they work like a gem. Not every technique works for everyone, but sometimes its helpful to hear how someone else works.
So what about you guys? How do you go about your scene placements and when do you know to delete?