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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?