My goal is to create scenes that serve more than one purpose in the book. If a scene advances the plot, that's not enough. It should also reveal character development or add clues to the subplot or contribute to world-building. Every scene must do more without becoming overly complicated. Elegant trimming and replacement is more difficult than it looks!
So far in this revision I've used a shrunken manuscript to identify major plot points and subplot points in the book---and also to identify those sections that can be removed. Next, I went through the entire manuscript using the tracking features in Word, making notes throughout.
When I deleted a scene, I evaluated its current purpose and used the shrunken manuscript to identify a place I might achieve the same purpose elsewhere in the book. Before eliminating the scene, I added notes to the target chapter.
I'm now to a point where I need to make sure all these details fit where I've moved them. I don't want to polish a scene and work on transitions into the next, only to discover I have the action in the wrong order.
I'm using large note cards for this stage. Since I'm revising from a manuscript with lots of notes, not everything needs to be included on these cards. The cards are my reminder of the big picture:
- What is the purpose of this chapter?
- How does each scene work toward that purpose?
I will also be leaving lots of blank space on the cards so I can add colored sticky notes to each. The sticky notes will track character development as well as tracking the continuum between clues and revealed material.
Because I'm touching so much in this revision, I need to keep track of the big picture as I move forward. I know some people are able to do this without all the structural supports, but I need the scaffolding. When I'm in the details of a scene, I get lost in the mind of my character---the pain and the passion and the immediacy of a specific event. I absolutely need the reminders so I'm writing to the book and not just the scene.
When I look back at the revisions of this book in the last year, I see clearly how much I've developed as a writer. A year ago a revision of this size would have scared me. Now, not so much. If I can make the book better, I'm in.