THE EDITING AUTHOR: 4 Things to Consider Before You Move a Scene

Don't be afraid to give a scene a new home.

Don’t be afraid to give a scene a new home.

Editing is tough for any writer, but one of the simplest, sure-fire ways to fix pacing, add intrigue, and to all-around improve your story can often be to move a scene somewhere else.

Adjusting where a story falls in the action can make a LOT of difference. Here are some things to consider as or before you move a scene.

  1. WHAT OTHER CHANGES, FOR THE SAKE OF CLARITY OR FLOW, DOES MOVING THE SCENE REQUIRE? Small adjustments that come from the bigger change–like having to give some background information sooner, or being able to eliminate some narration because the change of placement “shows” rather than “tells” something about a character–can be the biggest benefits for your story. And these small changes are usually things you never think of until forced to because the change you’re considering makes you realize what improvements are really possible.
  2. SOMETIMES MOVING A PART OF A SCENE WORKS GREAT.  I did this once or twice at the suggestion of beta readers, and was amazed. I would never have thought to break up a longer scene on my own, but the suggestion was brilliant and really helped the flow of my story. Sometimes, it’s not that the scene in its whole shouldn’t be where it is…. You just might have too much of a good thing, so break it up.
  3. MAKE SURE THE ISSUE IS TRULY PLACEMENT. Is the scene reading badly because it’s placed wrongly, or is there just a lot of fluff that is going to read as “long” and “uninteresting” no matter where you put it? Sometimes cuts, whether of paragraphs, sentences, or entire passages, are the real solution. Don’t be afraid to cut.
  4. IF YOU ARE HESITANT TO MOVE, YOU CAN ALWAYS “PLOT OUT” THE CHANGE ON AN OUTLINE. It’s a simple tip, I know, but one I wouldn’t necessarily think to do in the thrill of the moment.  Another tip? Make sure to save your file under a different name BEFORE you copy and paste and make your move. That way, if you change your mind, you can go back to an unchanged version of your story: nothing lost but a bit of time, and perhaps a lot of insight gained.

Have you ever moved a few scenes in a draft of a novel or short story? Were you surprised at what a difference it made, or how it opened your eyes to view the plot and characters differently?

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5 responses to “THE EDITING AUTHOR: 4 Things to Consider Before You Move a Scene

  1. Interestingly, today I went back to a novel I’ve been struggling with for a long time and did some of those scene shifts you’re talking about. In some places just a sentence or two. I feel it’s brought a spark into what was reading like a tedious narration, even though it was important background information. What do you feel about converting a direct statement into a question? Doesn’t it draw the reader closer to the character?

    • It depends on how much it flows and how realistically that character would ask that question at the moment it’s asked. Having a curious character realistically draw out information from someone else can do a lot of heavy lifting!

  2. I’ve not only moved scenes in my WIP, but I’ve changed the view point character in some of those scenes. I find it absolutely amazing how much more interesting a story can become by making the right kinds of changes like this. Taking beta reader comments to heart, digging deep into what they are telling you, and acting on their feedback can lead to these kinds of changes–the payoff of which can be huge.

    • Finding the right POV character is HUGE. I’m so glad you brought that up. It can make a major, major impact on the flow of the scene and what information gets presented to the reader.

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