Editing Fiction: 5 Tips To Make The Most Of Your Scenes

Do you wish that editing fiction could be easier? Many authors struggle with editing, because at this stage, you’re dealing with logic, as well as imagination.

Thinking logically can challenging, because when you’re writing, you’re imagining. Logic requires a different mindset; you’re looking at your fiction as a reader, rather than a writer.

Before you read the tips, if you haven’t done so, please check out this post to start editing fiction.

Complete those steps.

Then, focus on your scenes.

Dive into editing fiction: boost your scenes

Scenes are the building blocks of your fiction. We remember a powerful scene long after we’ve finished reading a novel, so mastering scene development is essential.

Let’s look at some tips to help you look at your scenes in new ways, and have fun while you’re editing fiction. I harp on having fun, because playful pleasure is an essential element of creativity.

1. Big scenes, little scenes—and scenes you don’t need

When you’re reading, before you start editing, think about your BIG scenes: the essential scenes. A novel may have five big scenes—scenes you can’t avoid, because if you avoid them, the reader will feel cheated.

In a romance, the meeting between the hero and heroine is a big scene; in a whodunit, you may drop clues or red herrings in big scenes.

Turning point scenes are big scenes too. The climax is your biggest scene; everything in your novel needs to build toward it.

For each scene, consider:

  • The rule of three—character, plot, and emotion.
  • The goal of the scene. Every character in a scene has a goal. Ensure that the reader understands the viewpoint character’s goal for the scene.
  • Dialogue and subtext.
  • Change. At the end of the scene, your viewpoint character has changed in some way.

Your scenes need to work hard: every scene needs to build plot and characterization. Scenes take place in real time: you’re showing, rather than telling (narrative.)

2. Scene elements: use settings to build drama

When you’re editing fiction, your main goal is to keep readers reading. New fiction authors tend to miss the potential of settings to add drama and increase conflict.

Think “worse”: could you use a scene’s setting to heighten the emotion, and make the scene more shocking to readers?

For example, you’re writing a thriller. Before editing, the victim is murdered in his driveway, when he gets home from work. Instead, you decide you’ll have the victim murdered on his boat; the body is tossed overboard.

Vary your settings: look at the main character’s goal in each scene, then assess the scene’s setting. Could you set it somewhere else to add conflict and drama?

3. Lift suspense via the viewpoint character in each scene

Could you include scenes from the bad guy’s point of view, to raise suspense? We looked at creating drama by balancing good and evil characters here:

One of the challenges of creating an evil character is your own lack of belief in the character. If you struggle with that, try pushing a good character trait to its limit in one of your characters.

4. Build up your turning point scenes

Here’s some great advice for plot twists:

Aim for three major plot twists and look for ways to build towards them…

Pacing your novel becomes easier when you decide on your pivotal scenes. You might choose these scenes as your turning points:

  • Your hero commits: at around 25% of the novel;
  • A midpoint twist, at 50%;
  • And the final twist, which leads to your climax. Usually, this twist happens just after the “dark night of the soul” for the hero. His plans are in ruins; he’s failed. The twist revives him: he’s ready for the climax.

5. Your biggest scene, the climax: look for ways to boost it

When you’re editing fiction, your climax must be the most powerful scene in your novel; it’s the ultimate battle between your main character and the forces against him.

In a romance, the main character has changed. He (or she) overcomes internal and external demons. In a mystery, the sleuth reveals the killer.

Enjoy editing fiction: once you know what to “fix”, editing is fun

Editing can be more fun than writing first drafts. You’re using your imagination and ingenuity to make your fiction memorable.