But what about the wonderful scene in Chapter One.
I know it's backstory,
but it's really good. "
(I'm kinda parphrasing what was said here. He had lots more excuses, for one thing.)
This giraffe is really great backstory put into Chapter One. I mean, as a visual concept.
What I said:
I, too, hate to discard good writing.
See Joanna discard good writing. See Joanna suffer.
Sometime there's a scene you have to write and you can't use because it don't fit in the action of the book.
Live with it.
We don't add scenes because they are interesting, beautiful and cool. We set scenes in place because their action, tone, pacing, emotional content, and movement through the character arc
TELL THE STORY.
If the reader has to edge his way around a kitchen sink in the front hall, we take the sink out. It doesn't matter that it's a beautiful kitchen sink.
Be ruthless. Does that scene drive the narrative forward . . . or slow it to a grinding halt?
Which is all very fine and philosophical, but how do we actually DO this?
1) Finish Draft One.
2) Set the ms in front of you and take out a sharp knife.
3) You are going to cut out everything that is not essential to the action.
If you remove a scene and the story still works, it is not an essential scene.
Especially take out
old men reciting prophesy,
descriptions of sunrise over the steppes,
scenes of somebody thinking about things,
talking heads explaining what somebody's grandfather did.
4) You now have two piles
(a) the working action of the manuscript, and
(b) literary kudzu.
This is where you can indulge yourself.
You get to take an amount of kudzu no greater than 5% of the total mass of the ms and fold it back in.
This is a WeightWatchers indulging of oneself --
i.e. you get a piece of chocolate cake the size of a postage stamp --
but it is better than nothing at all.
5) Reread this new, sleek Draft One. It's better, isn't it?