Get Your Knives Out


So I’m not a fan of scenes that run on too long. I’m not a stickler about it, but in the first act, I try to keep my scenes under 3000 words, 2500 even better, and then in the last three acts never top 2500, in the last act even shorter. I’ve been rewriting the breakfast scene which has to do a lot of heavy lifting, and I like it. But it’s 4400 words. That’s ridiculous. It must be cut.

I am still in the darling stage with it. I want EVERY DAMN WORD. But at least a thousand words have to go. Your job, should you choose to accept it, it to tell me where it lags, where it’s confusing, where you’d cut it. Feel free to be brutal. As always, I won’t respond for twenty-four hours–YOU WANT ME TO CUT THAT??????–because I need to detach for distance, but all feedback is more than welcome.

Yes, I know I keep exploiting you. But you keep coming back. It’s a symbiotic relationship.

Scene is here.

Drafting: Discovery to Truck

The process of moving from a discovery draft (which is just writing to see what the story’s about) to a truck draft (which is an early draft that isn’t great but is probably good enough to publish if I get hit by a truck) is mostly about deconstructing a scene by beats to see what the hell is in there, and revising that to what’s supposed to be in there, once I’ve gotten a good overview of the act or entire book. I’ve done about a zillion drafts of the first breakfast scene, but they were all discovery drafts. It’s time to get serious about this sucker. For one thing, this scene over 3900 words and for another, it goes nowhere. it’s an overwritten, wandering, bloviating mess.

Here’s the rewrite analysis:

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Six Drafts

Two of my least favorite questions in interviews are “How long does it take you to write a book?” and “How many drafts do you do?” And of course the answers are “As long as it takes” and “As many as I need,” which is no help to anybody. I think the fastest I ever wrote a book was six weeks (Anyone But You). The longest? Well, if I ever finish You Again, that’s already taken me over a decade. I know there are people who do several books a year, books that people love. I assume those people get a head start: they’re natural storytellers, or they’re obsessive about story, or they don’t care about all the stuff that trips me up that has nothing to do with writing a good book. They’re born writers. I was born to crochet and eat chocolate. But the thing is, it doesn’t matter why those writers can do that. I can’t. There’s no point in gnashing my teeth about it. This is the path I was given as a writer, and just like those speedy writers would not be improved by slowing down, it’s a disaster if I try to speed up. (Really, I’ve tried.) What helps me to accept that is looking at my process (as much as I have a process; that sounds so organized). It goes like this: Continue reading