Keeping Score: 26 August 2022
Ever write a scene, and immediately regret it?
This week I’ve been focusing on finishing one, just one, of the story first draft I’m in the middle of. I carefully plotted out what scenes were left at the start of the week, and spent each day’s writing session chugging along, setting them down.
Only when I got to the second-to-last scene, I made it halfway through before coming to a screeching halt. Despite all my well-laid plans, I was suddenly out of track, for two reasons.
One, I’d decided to have the main character expose her boss as a fake, by flipping open the many file boxes her boss has strewn around and showing them all to be empty. Very dramatic, fun scene, in my head. Only I forgot to come up with a reason why the boxes were empty.
So when I got to the part where she opened them up, and I needed to show her boss’ reaction, I had nothing. No idea. Nothing to see here folks, the muse has gone home for the day.
Two, even once I’d spent some time brainstorming ideas for the boxes, and started back in on the scene, I realized the tone was completely wrong. I’d started the story off as a meditation on memory and purpose, with a protagonist gradually realizing she wants to do something else with her life.
Emphasis on gradually. Not big-d Dramatically, or in some blaze of glory, but over time, like the tide receding from a beach. And here I had this high-volume scene right towards the end of the story. It doesn’t wok, and I knew it wouldn’t work as I was writing it.
But I finished the scene anyway. I’ve been told too many times, by too many authors more experienced and skilled than me, that stopping to edit in the middle of a draft is an excellent way to never get anything finished.
And once again, they’ve turned out to be right! Because in finishing the scene, and chewing it over once I’d done it, I realized moving the scene earlier in the story — with some tweaks — will give it all the things it was missing before: a ticking clock, a purpose behind the boss’ actions, a push for the protagonist to make her life-altering decision.
I’ve got one more scene left to write in this draft, so I’m going to take another page out of their advice, and write it like I’ve already made the change I’m thinking of doing in the next draft. That way, when I actually write that draft, this final scene won’t need as many edits (and I’ll have a completed draft, which is an accomplishment on its own).
What about you? Have you ever had a scene (or a story) that you thought you’d need to throw away, and instead it became the spark that set off something even better?