Saturday, January 10, 2015

Skipping the Boring Parts

My goal is to write what I’d want to read.  And in so many books, even ones I love, there are parts I skim through or skip over because they’re boring and I have no real interest in them.

That doesn’t mean a story should be wall to wall action.  A big scene that moves the plot forward can and usually should be followed by a quieter interlude that develops the characters – and both can be equally compelling if done right.  (I don’t think it should ever be entirely one or the other – there are opportunities for character advancement in the heat of battle and for plot progression in reflective scenes.)

So what makes something interesting?  For me, it must go to the core of the tale – if it keeps the story chugging along one way or another, then I want to read it.  If not, if it takes me away from the story I’ve gotten into, then I just get past it as fast as I can so I can get back to what I’m really interested in.  So why should I write what I wouldn’t want to read myself, that you’d probably just skim through or skip over yourself?

Obviously, I don’t want to waste my time or yours with anything that isn’t essential.  Sometimes scenes are just superfluous – like the David and Kat bits I wrote depicting their regular lives on the evening before everything changed in Certain Hypothetical.  Not that those weren’t interesting in themselves as character study, but they only delayed the main story so they had to go.  All the important establishing of setting and character could be done on the fly in other, more interesting scenes.

As a reader, I want to be pulled into a story right away, and I want to enjoy every bit of the journey without side excursions to places I’m not really interested in.  If you’re traveling, do you want to be dragged to every spot on someone else’s list?  Or do you want to spend your precious time going straight for the sights you came to see?  There really shouldn’t be any question, and for me there isn’t.

Since writing those two scenes I just mentioned, I don’t think I’ve had to cut a whole scene or even a significant portion of one.  When I write my first draft, I only write the scenes that really interest me, so I can keep moving on and find out what happens next, just like how I read a book.  I skip the stuff that bores me.

So unlike a lot of writers, when it comes to rewriting I don’t have a lot of cutting to do.  Rather, I find myself expanding and even adding scenes as I try to make sure everything essential to the story gets in, that each vital scene is as dense and contains as much substance as possible.  My hope is that though these stories should be quick reads in the first instance, they should reward you on a reread.  Because those are my favorite kinds of books, the ones I can go back to again and again and still enjoy and maybe get a little something new out of.

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