Ensign’s Log, Entry 5: When rewriting becomes writing

The last month has been quite a busy time, hence the reason for no recent updates. I haven’t had a chance to do a lot of work on The Astrals until the past couple of weeks. I also didn’t have reliable internet–although that, thankfully, is now a not-so-fond memory of the past.

Remember in my last log entry, how I was working on Chapter 6 and it became a complete rewrite?

Well, it turns out that that rewrite went on for a lot longer than expected. I’m now in the process of editing Chapter 8…which is actually, Chapter 10. That’s right–the new Chapter 6 continued to expand, becoming three brand-new chapters.

A lot of things happened, things were made more consistent, characters had time to develop, and an introduction occurred earlier than it previously had. I also tied things in with events in one of the earlier chapters, thanks to a stroke of inspiration, and set up things for making a subplot more clear.

This led me to thinking about when in the editing process you should know that things need to be rewritten…or completely cut and replaced with a new scene, or even three new chapters.

For me, it comes down to a gut instinct. I know something isn’t working right, most (if not all) of the critiques on my draft are pointing at the same issues, and no matter how I rewrite a scene it simply isn’t coming out right.

As painful as it is to take hours’, days’, even weeks’ or months’ worth of work and cut it completely, then start from scratch, sometimes it is necessary. The too-often quoted phrase of “Kill your darlings!” fits well here, even if it’s a bit cliche in my opinion. Sometimes it takes a fresh perspective, a new point-of-view, a different setting…and sometimes, the scene simply isn’t necessary or helpful to moving the plot forward and needs to be removed.

Don’t despair, though! Keep a document of snips and scenes that you’ve cut. It may be discarded material, but there can be bits of gold glimmering within that you can sift out and use elsewhere in the story, or even in a different story.

How do you know when to let a scene go? What makes you decide to rewrite or completely write a scene anew? Do you keep those bits and pieces you cut? Why or why not?