Thursday, June 26, 2008

Filler, and Fixing It

Today's subject is filler - you know, the stuff you throw in to raise word count, but which doesn't further your plot. As writers, we all do it. This is why the aforementioned outline of your story is so important.

Once you've created an outline, including the important plot points or character reveals within each scene, you'll notice whether a scene is moving your story ahead, or just stagnating it. If your characters spend an entire scene chit-chatting about the tree in the heroine's garden, chances are it's not crucial (unless your hero is a landscaper who suddenly discovers this is a rare Superficus greenacea that might be the only cure for the devastating earache plague that's killing swimmers everywhere ... but I digress). If your characters spend the scene repeating something the reader already knows, chop it. Do it. It'll make your story better, I promise. Think of it as pruning. (Oh, no, here she goes again ...)

Don't be afraid to delete scenes. I chopped the entire first three chapters of one book after realizing how much they slowed my story down. Take whatever might be crucial information in those scenes, and move it somewhere else. Your reader will never know she missed the filler - and she'll get a faster, better read. If you're worried about your word count sinking below the required mark, chances are your story didn't already have enough "meat" on its bones. Think up a good subplot that ties in with the main plot, and thread it through the whole story. Word count will then take care of itself.

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