I have a confession to make. In first, second, even third drafts, I often write in “scene shorthand.” I’m learning to slow down, to let the writing breathe, as I go. For me doing so is satisfying in a way scene shorthand can never be, and taking my time with a first draft certainly results in fewer rewrites (which saves time, in the end, and helps if what I’m writing is emotionally taxing). Still, this tendency toward shorthand remains. Knowing this affects how I edit my work. I’ve found:
Sometimes revision requires not only deletions but expansions.
I both respect and enjoy the editing process. Yet, like all writers, I occasionally meet strong internal resistance to eliminating a scene or a line. I’ve found that letting the decision wait a few days and/or talking it through helps me uncover the source of my resistance. Sometimes my resistance is self-indulgent (fondness for a moment, reluctance to abandon a section that was challenging to create, etc.) and, simply, I have to get over it and make the cut.
But sometimes my resistance is a crucial signal from my writer-self there’s something deeper about a scene or a line my editor-self hasn’t yet recognized.
One of the most important scenes in The Ways of Eternity (and to the I, Horus series) got written because I re-examined three lines that were falling flat. Several times I considered deleting those lines. I couldn’t do it.
And so, I lingered. I wrote.
I discovered the tipping-point event, so pivotal to my protagonist, three lines had represented. I discovered a missing scene, three pages long, now the ending of the first chapter. I discovered, as well, the chapter’s opening. (If you’re curious about the finished scenes, here’s a link: Light)
Had I not allowed myself the time to delve, had I just cut the three lines, both the reader and I would have missed experiencing with Horus the crucial moments in his first, essential transformation. We would have missed the moment of his rebirth, through water and light, and his resulting inner shift–the foundation for his love of humanity and, later, his choice to become humanity’s champion. I would have missed confirmation and the reader clues about Horus’ true nature, his larger purpose, and the core path he will follow throughout the series.
So, how about you? Are you a “scene shorthand” writer?
The next time you encounter your own resistance to a deletion, consider giving yourself time to find out why. Consider writing more. You might surprise yourself. And what you discover just might serve well your story, your characters, your readers, and you.