From Dave Farland:
Many times as an editor, I will look at a scene and ask myself: “Does this scene belong? Does it move the story along? Does it change the story in new and exciting ways?” Too often, the answer is, “No, it’s wasted text.”
I recently looked at a novel that had a fantastic opening. The problem was, that that great opening didn’t come until fifty pages into the book. Any editor would have rejected the manuscript long before that.
Every single page was well written. The characters were fleshed out, the character’s voices and dialog were convincing, the details of setting were great.
The problem was that those first fifty pages consisted of people talking, relating their backstories, and introducing themselves to the audience, and it just didn’t work.
. . . .
1) Do your characters do anything, or do they just think? Too often, I will see scenes where characters just sit and think about what has happened. “How did I get in this mess?” The chances are good that this kind of scene is garbage. You’re trying to lead up to the action when you do this. Instead, let characters think while they are in action.
. . . .
3) Two characters have a conversation—but nothing changes. Very often I see conversations that seem to be rather maid-and-butler, where one character says, “Gee, Bob, you know I think we have a major problem,” and the other says, “Yes, I agree.” That’s all a waste.
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