Revision Step 1: Delete for Conflict!

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This blog post looks at what to delete from events in order to improve clarity, voice, logic, and flow. By deleting content in your first step of revision, you won’t waste time polishing material you will only remove later on. And if deleting content leaves holes, you can brainstorm and fill the gaps with something even better.

The blog does NOT delve into different types of conflict, a break-down of what a scene is and is not, or types of transitions. Again, each of those would need its own post. The post carries the subtitle “Delete for Conflict!” because most of an event is made of conflict (I know you know this). But remember to look at the entire event – both before the conflict starts and after it is resolved – because the entire event can benefit from these warning signs.

  • Ignores main story goal. The characters are not trying to reach (or prevent) the main story goal. Every sub-goal needs to tie back to that main story goal.

  • Lacks conflict, tension, or suspense. The three are not the same. Conflict is a struggle between two or more characters. Tension is the physical, mental, and emotional strain caused by the conflict. Suspense is the reader’s uncertainty about how the conflict will end. If you are missing any of them, the reader will probably loose interest.

  • Takes tangents. A tangent differs from a valid digression. Sometimes a character will get deflected from the initial scene goal – and that can be fine. BUT: Is the scene goal answered by the finishing event? Can you justify the diversion? Was it somehow caused by the last event or did the even “just happen”? (Hint: the second scenario is bad.) Does the tangent serve some purpose? Ex., foreshadowing, essential backstory. If not, it needs to go.

  • Story still drags. When this happens, then the pace may be too slow. Use all the articles as a check-list to see what can be removed. But don’t stop there. Also try shortening the length of sentences and paragraphs. This alone will make the story flow faster.

This is Part 2 of a series of five blog entries that look at deleting to improve Style, Events, Summary and Description, Characters, and Dialogue.

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Three very different book on planning events…

Bell, James Scott. Conflict & Suspense. Cincinnati, Ohio: Wiriter’s Digest Books, 2011.

Dibell, Ansen. Plot. Cincinnati, Ohio: Writer’s Digest Books, 1988.

Franklin, Jon. Writing for Story. New York: Plume, 1994 (republished).

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