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Rewriting Scenes that jump ahead

Merlyn

So I'm curious. Does anyone else get really annoyed with themselves when they finish the first draft of a chapter and realize upon re-reading it that somehow even though you've written over 9,000 words and have some great scenes that you've progressed the story too far and forgot to include lead up? What do you do when you do this? Obviously, it needs some work before being posted, but do you go back and insert scenes earlier in the chapter to catch up to the end? Do you take your later scenes and put them to the side and rewrite the end of the chapter?

I know everyone is different and probably does different things? I'm just curious to see what other people do, as I am in the middle of having to do this :(

Ernest Bywater

I don't post until after the story is finished, thus it's no problem for me to slap in a chapter break, enter the additional text, then continue on with the story until finished.

What's worse is when you get to the end of the story and have a bind due to some minor aspect in the first few chapters. If nothing is posted yet it's easy to go change the early part and amend as needed through the story.

Crumbly Writer

As Ernest notes, this is mainly a problem for the SOL 'post it as you write it' crowd, as most of the rest of us (who are decidedly in the minority here) already handle these situations as a matter of course, long before the story ever appears.

Still, in either case, you should want the final work to show your best effort, so I'd definitely go back and clean it up, and as they say, 'there's no time like the present'. If you put it off, you're liable to forget which scenes and which chapters you wanted to 'fix'.

If nothing else, if you post a brief 'Sorry for the delay, but I had to double back and fix a few earlier chapters' in a blog post I'm sure most readers would respect that. After all, they enjoy a more coherent story too, especially given how often stories (and individual chapters) get reread here.

I'm only six chapters into my newest story, and I already have about a dozen inconsistencies I need to double back and correct, requiring quite a bit of additional text, exposition and additional character involvement (normally I don't do that until, aside from small fixes, until I start my revision process once I see how the story ends).

Switch Blayde

@Merlyn

The less outlining up front, the more re-writing you'll do.

Replies:   robberhands
robberhands

@Switch Blayde

The less outlining up front, the more re-writing you'll do.

I won't say it's not a good advice, but personally, I never did the former nor the latter.

awnlee jawking

@Merlyn

but do you go back and insert scenes earlier in the chapter to catch up to the end?


Yes.

It's difficult to do flashbacks really well.

9,000 words sounds long for a single chapter. If you're inserting significant extra material as well, perhaps you should consider splitting it.

AJ

Replies:   Merlyn  REP
Merlyn

@awnlee jawking

9,000 words sounds long for a single chapter. If you're inserting significant extra material as well, perhaps you should consider splitting it.


I will probably do that. I'm just annoyed as the scene I wrote, and really like pushes one of the characters beyond where she should be at this time. I'll probably just take a crack at rewriting the chapter and save the scene for later. Maybe I'll just retool the scene to limit the activities of the character who hasn't progressed enough yet. Maybe witnessing the other characters behavior will be one of the things that pushes her ahead in her growth.... either way, annoyed at the time spent writing something that I both like and dis-like at the same time.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Merlyn

Maybe I'll just retool the scene to limit the activities of the character who hasn't progressed enough yet. Maybe witnessing the other characters behavior will be one of the things that pushes her ahead in her growth.... either way, annoyed at the time spent writing something that I both like and dis-like at the same time.

What's good about that, even if you never reuse the segment, is you've learned enough about the character, that later on, they'll be more fully-formed beings, so when you have them do new things in the future, hopefully they'll seem more natural, and will seemingly flow into the story rather than being pushed into it.

In that case, those aren't 'wasted' scenes, but are instead, necessary researching into the characters' personalities.

And yeah, flashbacks are hard to write. Often, there are simply some stories where flashbacks work naturally, and where they just seem to fit, and others where, no matter how you try to work them, they just fall flat every time. The key, is to slowly learn the difference, so you can recognize the stories where they'll work, and then know when to utilize them.

REP

@awnlee jawking


9,000 words sounds long for a single chapter.


Chapters posted to SOL are split if the chapter exceeds a certain length. Chapters being split into multiple pages is a very common occurrence. I checked one story and the page break for the 1st of 3 pages was at about 7,500 words.

9,000 words doesn't seem long to me, I seem to average around 8,500 word chapters.

REP

@Merlyn

Does anyone else get really annoyed with themselves ...


I'm annoyed with myself for something similar. My current story has multiple subplots and I got the timing of one subplot out of synch with the other subplots in the chapter. I had to go back through 20 chapters and check the relative timing of the subplots to make sure I hadn't done that elsewhere.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@REP

I'm annoyed with myself for something similar. My current story has multiple subplots and I got the timing of one subplot out of synch with the other subplots in the chapter. I had to go back through 20 chapters and check the relative timing of the subplots to make sure I hadn't done that elsewhere.

That's why I always maintain a working timeline for my stories, so that my editors and myself can check it if there's ever a question of when something occurs within the story. This is especially true if you're dealing with flashbacks, flashforwards or time travel.

I also maintain a running character list, which identifies each character, including when they first appear in the story (which I then use to create an accurate chapter-by-chapter character list).

The extra details help keep the story consistent.

Replies:   REP
awnlee jawking

@REP

A quick trawl of 'writing expert' bloggers found a recommendation of 1000-5000 words to be common, with a 'sweet spot' of 3000-4000 words.

However an analysis of popular fantasy novels showed their chapters tended to be longer than average, with some averaging over 7500 words.

AJ

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Uther_Pendragon

@REP

Chapters posted to SOL are split if the chapter exceeds a certain length.

The official cutting place is 55 kilo BYTES.

I'm going to have to go back to my _Heart Ball_ and put in one hell of a lot more breaks.

I really hate software deciding for me.

REP

@Crumbly Writer

I always maintain a working timeline


I had one. What I missed was the scene depended on details that weren't presented so it didn't fit in the chapter I was writing. That was what made me go back and check other chapters.

Crumbly Writer

@awnlee jawking

However an analysis of popular fantasy novels showed their chapters tended to be longer than average, with some averaging over 7500 words.

Traditionally, fantasy, science fiction and historical fiction tend to be the longest genres with also the longest chapter lengths, mainly because there is so much 'world building' involved.

On the flip side, mysteries and romances are traditionally the shortest, although we're now in an age of 'epic' romance novels, so all bets are off in that genre, as now ANY book with a romance element is now considered to be a 'romance book'.

Chapters posted to SOL are split if the chapter exceeds a certain length.

The official cutting place is 55 kilo BYTES.

My SOL pages typically broke around the 10,000 word mark, if I remember correctly, which is why I've always tried to keep them under that size.

Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

now ANY book with a romance element is now considered to be a 'romance book'.


Not true. There are some very specific requirements for it to be considered in the Romance genre.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Ross at Play

@Crumbly Writer

My SOL pages typically broke around the 10,000 word mark, if I remember correctly

Yes, you remember correctly.

The physical limit the site imposes is 55KB. The average number of characters per word in English almost always falls between 5 and 6. That range is surprising narrow: an average of 5.0 will sound like baby talk, but an average of 6.0 sounds like academic gobbledygook. The result is that page lengths here invariably end up between 9K and 11K words.

Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

Not true. There are some very specific requirements for it to be considered in the Romance genre.

That depends who's counting. To be considered by a 'romance' publisher, they're very strict (i.e. "males need not apply"), but since most outlets allows books to be catalogued by multiple genre categories, the people who track those categories have stated repeatedly that "romance" is the most widely used book /genre category by far!

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


the people who track those categories have stated repeatedly that "romance" is the most widely used book /genre category by far!


Break a romance rule and the romance readers will never forgive you.

My first novel has two romance stories in it. I wrote it for a publisher that used to publish Romantica (Erotic Romance - they're out of business now). The editor told me adultery wasn't allowed and I had to change my wife to a fiancé. I explained why that wasn't possible and she agreed, but told me she couldn't publish it. Her readers didn't want the heroine committing adultery.

So it was heavy romance, but not a Romance genre novel.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

Break a romance rule and the romance readers will never forgive you.

That's the same advice I'd heard repeatedly about mysteries, that you can't change what readers expect to happen without pissing off readers. Thus I was trepidatious when I published A House in Disarray, which as is my tendency, I turned the traditional genre on it's head to see what shakes out.

Luckily for me, my readers already know what to expect from me, and they trust me to carry it off (most times). Although they were skeptical when I changed up the basic premise, by the time the story unfolded, they were pleased with the results and already asking me to write more mysteries. I'm assuming a few of those were new readers who haven't followed my long list of sci-fi stories.

As we always say, before you can break the 'rules', you need to understand the risks, so you can understand what might to wrong and try to minimize the risks of losing control of your story.

Once again, the reason why many of us self-publish isn't that we can't get published (though that may be true too), but it's because many of us don't want to be limited by what publishers expect.

If publishers were so good at guessing what readers want, they wouldn't have lost the war with ebooks. They're still continuing, mainly because they can reach more readers than individual authors can, but they've always had a terribly track record for picking winners and losers.

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