“It's cute and it's well-written, but how does it move the story forward?” The question posed by my critique partner threatened to burst my glowing I-love-this-scene bubble. Honestly, how could this oh-so-carefully-crafted scene that I loved not advance the storyline of my YA novel in the right direction?
Her advice concluded with, “I think you need to cut it.”
Her words stung, and I wanted to pout from my defensive corner. But I soon came to realize she was right. The scene was cute—exceedingly so. I felt sure it contributed to my characters’ already established voices and personalities. But as far as the storyline was concerned, this scene did not move the story forward.
I eventually made the mature decision to pull it. Hoping I would be able to use bits and pieces of it at some point in the series, I did not toss it but saved it in a document aptly titled “Deleted scenes.” Of course in reality I saved it because I couldn't bear to trash those carefully crafted words. Would I ever use it again? Unlikely. But it was easier for me to tuck it away in a folder on my computer than to toss it away forever.
Aren’t critique partners awesome? When I was too close to the story to see the holes or the bumps or the story-stalling scenes, they intervened. And now I find myself consistently posing similar questions. Does this scene move the story forward? Does it compel the reader to keep reading? If not, could it be tweaked, combined with a different segment or used in an alternate way, one that would benefit the plot?
While not every cute, well-written scene deserves a place in your completed manuscript, those cutting-room-floor scenes can be useful to the author. How so? Because anything that gives the storyteller a deeper, wider view of the characters can serve to strengthen the characters’ presence on the page throughout the book.
Another use for cute scenes that fail the forward-progress test? They can serve as “bonus material” for newsletter subscribers or fans of the series.
There’s still time to register for bestselling author Tina Radcliffe’s presentation on “Creating Compelling Scenes” THIS Saturday via Zoom from noon to 2 p.m. EST. Zip off an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to RSVP for this event hosted by the Indiana ACFW Chapter.
See you Saturday!
Beth’s combined experiences teaching the high school Sunday School class, substitute teaching in the public school, and connecting with the teenage staff at the fast-food joint where she claimed a “back booth office” helped inspire her young adult “Choices Matter” fiction series. She's a "cheerleader" for saving sex for marriage and for "renewed waiting" because it's never too late to make wiser choices. Her “Waiting Matters … Because YOU Matter” blog helps people of all ages navigate the choppy waters of saving sex for marriage while her “Slices of Real Life” posts find GOD in the day-to-day moments of real life.
As a genetic genealogy enthusiast, she writes and speaks about her experiences as a "foundling" who located her birth parents. Her journey to find and connect with her biological family is chronicled in the blog series “A Doorstep Baby’s Search for Answers.” All of her writing endeavors can be found on her website, https://bethsteury.com .