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Rewriting And Those Darling Scenes


Sometimes, you write a book that seems awesome at the time, but turns out to have problems that can’t be fixed in revisions—even big revisions. Maybe you tried to do something with it, and things just didn’t work out, so you trunked it for a while, and now you’ve pulled it out with a brilliant idea for how to reshape it into something awesome.

My latest project has been a massive rewrite of something I wrote a couple years ago. I kept only the skeleton—the setting and a handful of characters—and completely tore out the guts, replacing them entirely. However, there were a couple of scenes from the original that I thought/hoped could be repurposed.

This can happen in revisions, too. You have a scene you just adore. It is a perfect, beautifully written scene. But there’s a problem: the story doesn’t need it. It might be great all alone, but when you shove it in with the rest, it’s made less perfect by its purposelessness. Sometimes it’s hard to see that you've done this. I had a scene last through multiple revisions, until one beta said, “Not sure enough happens in this chapter.” It was a scene that had worked really well in the original version of the story, and one that I had loved, but when I went to figure out what more should happen in the scene, I realized that in this version, maybe the scene just shouldn’t happen at all. It was still cute, but it did nothing for the story.

Rewriting is a big undertaking. Sometimes you get tired, and you think, well, there was some good stuff in that last version! Maybe I should just look through and see what I can use…

And that’s fine. Sometimes there are good scenes you left behind. But when you decide to paste in one of your darlings and smooth it to fit the rest of your rewritten version, make sure it really does fit. Does it move the story forward in some way? (It should.) Did you have to come up with some crazy convoluted subplot to make the scene necessary? (You shouldn’t.) When you read through the finished product with the scene in place, does it flow nicely, or does something about it feel wrong?

It’s really easy to let those darling scenes sneak in and try to ruin your story. Scenes can be even sneakier than those darling sentences you know you should cut when revising and sometimes don't. They're so big, cutting them feels daunting. But don't be afraid to take out those scissors and make a bloodbath of your manuscript--I promise, it will thank you later.
Kaitlin Ward

Kaitlin Ward is the author of Bleeding Earth, Adaptive Books 2016, and The Farm, coming 2017 from Scholastic.

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  1. This is incredibly timely for me. I'm rewriting a manuscript that I LOVE and certainly has some strong points, but the original story was weak. It's very difficult to decide what to keep (I just adore some of my scenes!) and what needs to go for the sake of the new story. Thanks for the great advice!

  2. You're so right-- I rarely have darling sentences, but darling scenes are my major downfall. *high five*

  3. I managed to "solve" this problem by losing the thumb drive that contained the older and mostly plotless versions of the novel I'm rewriting. I'm pretty sure I left it somewhere in France. Sigh. But at least losing it has killed any temptation I might have had to go back and pull in scenes from the old versions.

  4. In general, I am intimidated by rewriting and revisions. I actually have no idea how to do it, buti know what you mean about darling scenes. There is one that I love but it doesn't fit in the story.
    The whole story needs to be rewritten, how scary!!

  5. I'm getting better at cutting useless old stuff I love. I just have to overcome my own nostalgia :)

  6. It is tough and I am a cut and paste guy myself. I try my best to make the old material fit and mold it as needed. You are right though that some of it just can not fit into the new direction or plot line. Movement (driving force) is definitely the key to whether or not it stays or goes.

  7. Cutting your favorite scene always feels as though you’re chopping off a huge chunk of hair. Or at least it does to me.

    Great post. :)

  8. GREAT post. I too am guilty of darling scene syndrome.

  9. I'm so glad my husband is my most honest and most brilliant critic. I'm far to soft on my darlings!


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Item Reviewed: Rewriting And Those Darling Scenes Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Kaitlin Ward