Cutting Scenes

Ah, now we get to the really nitty-gritty of the editing issue. When faced with needing to pare down an over sized novel, cutting out scenes sometimes becomes necessary. This is often the hardest part of rewriting. And probably the thing writers wrestle with the most. We hate cutting that brilliant sentence we wrote the most, but don't really wrestle with doing it or not. In the case of cutting scenes, the answer may not be so clear cut. All I can do is give you my process for how I decide when I need to cut a scene or not.




  1. Is it dragging the story down? This problem usually comes into play in the "Soggy Middle", especially if you are having problems plotting the story, or pantsed the middle of the novel. I love a meandering story as much as the next gal, but meander or no, it has to serve the story. If you want to see what that's like, click the link above where I talked about how I dealt with that in last year's NaNoWriMo novel. 
  2.  Is there enough conflict in the scene? Choices are to amp it up, or to cut it all together. It can be really tempting to amp up the conflict in the scene when the scene contains important information, but...cutting the scene and importing that tidbit of information to another scene, where it will cause more frustration for your characters will actually work better.
  3. Your novel is too long. Oh, no, the horror! Now many writers don't think that their book can be too long. But I've got to say, novels over 100,000 words are not typically published by traditional publishers. (Epic fantasy like Game of Thrones is the exception.) There's a reason for that, most people in the general public will only read about 50,000 words a week. Two weeks is the average time it takes a person in the general public to read a novel. Think about how easy it is to lose a thread after that amount of time. Try to keep your word count between 75,000 and 90,000. You can cut extra words and tighten the prose to get it down, but a less than stellar scene might be a better choice.
  4. You know the scene is not well done and it's tough to fix it. For me, these are the ideas I let fly somewhere close to end of the day, when I was tired and falling asleep literally on my keyboard. (I might have done that once, or twice--a month.) Anyway, you know that scene when you read it. You were having a bad day, it reads like crap, not normal first draft crappiness either. It's extra stinky, extra boring, and extra-extra-extra bad. Let it go. 
  5. Right scene, wrong book. You really thought this scene belonged in this book, but it doesn't. Maybe the idea for that subplot it too big for your novel, and it needs it's own book. Cutting the scene from this book is really better for everyone involved. Er, well, you know what I mean. Your characters are better served by extracting this scene, maybe a slight hint at what is might be coming, and then this scene is out of this book. 
Alright, that's my list. I hope you have been enjoying things this month. Don't forget to subscribe if you've been enjoying it. It really helps me out. Thanks!

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