How do you move from writing relatively polished scenes to brand new scenes? I’m finding my clumsiness sort of disconcerting, even though I intellectually realize that I had the same kind of problems when I was writing the earlier drafts of the polished scene.
This is one of the reasons you shouldn’t polish scenes until you have a full first draft (or the majority of a first draft) done. It’s almost impossible not to rewrite as you go, but a polished scene is one that is perfect, or so close to perfect that you never want to change it. If it’s your last draft, that’s good. If it’s your first through forty drafts, it’s bad. A polished scene is so shiny, it becomes impervious to change. The other scenes still in draft form then have to conform to the polished one because you don’t want to damage the shiny. And that almost always knocks things completely out of whack; you want the entire story staying fluid until the very last draft.
Another reason is that a polished scene is often a dead scene: there’s no excitement in writing it any more. A new scene is still living and breathing. Yes, it’s lousy, but that’s okay, you’re going to rewrite it; the important thing is that it’s all new, it can go anywhere as long as it’s not tied to some damn polished rock, so it’s giving you the fun of writing something new all over again. New scenes rekindle passion that rewriting undercuts. That’s why I think you never stop writing new scenes to polish stuff you’ve already written. Make yourself write ten new pages of rough draft (or whatever number works for you) a week (or whatever span of time works for you). You need to keep generating story until the first draft is done. Then go back and look at the story as a whole, and that’ll tell you what to polish.
As somebody who has cut beautifully rewritten scenes, I can tell you that polishing before the first draft is done is a waste of time and stifler of creativity. The only thing worse than cutting a scene you’ve slaved over is not cutting it if it doesn’t work in the book. My best advice for scenes that are polished brightly before the first draft is done: delete them. But since nobody wants to do that, bury them someplace deep in your hard drive and generate that full first draft, reveling in the excitement of the new scenes and reminding yourself that first drafts are supposed to suck. Then when it’s done, cut and rewrite until the whole thing is shiny.
Polish the story as a whole, not its parts.
Standard Disclaimer: There are many roads to Oz. While this is my opinion on this writing topic, it is by no means a rule, a requirement, or The Only Way To Do This. Your story is your story, and you can write it any way you please.