Editing — Don’t Beat a Dead Horse

Carolyn Kaufman (THE WRITER’S GUIDE TO PSYCHOLOGY) had a post on QueryTracker today that was good so I thought I’d share. Here it is in part…

“You may know who your good guys and bad guys are overall, and what each side’s mission is in your story or novel as a whole, but do you know what the key conflict is in each scene? If your story is moving forward properly, each scene’s conflict should be a little different as the characters react and respond to each other. Each scene’s conflict should also advance the story as a whole.

“As I edit a novel, I often find that I have several redundant scenes, usually because I am trying to make a point of some kind. But a story is more exciting (and fun) if it doesn’t get mired in redundancies.

“For example, in the novel I’m currently working on, I found three scenes meant to emphasize how bad things were for the good guys now that the bad guys had successfully invaded—the good guys had reached the point of surrendering not just physically, but also psychologically.

“My goal was to prove that things were BAD, and I did such a good job with it that I found myself depressed and a little hopeless, even though I knew the good guys would eventually prevail. There’s nothing pretty about beating a dead horse, folks, and if you insist on doing so, your readers may beat a hasty retreat.

“Though I’m not much of a chess player, the craftiness of the game has always intrigued me, and so I like to think of a story like an intense chess game between sides. One side moves; the other side has to counter that move and not only block the opponent’s goals, but also further its own.

“So take another look at that story you think you’ve finished. Is it as tight as it can be? Do the conflicts between characters evolve and change with each and every scene? If not, can you combine scenes or otherwise hone things down to keep your writing razor edged?”

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