Stuck on a Scene

I’ve been stalled out on revisions this week because of a really boring scene in my book. It’s embarrassing for me to write this, but if I don’t out myself I’ll continue running on this mouse-wheel forever. Tonight, I give myself permission to cut the scene.

Yet I recoil at the thought. For some reason, I can’t part with this scene about a young woman taking a dress from her mother’s closet. I know! So boring, right? But it’s about so much more than that. It’s the particular dress she chooses. It represents a power shift. It shows a savvy move in a mother-daughter chess game. I have to find a way to keep it.

At the BONI workshop I attended with Donald Maass in September, he read us an opening scene in a novel about a man staring at a white ceiling in a hospital. It was riveting. He read it to illustrate the point that a scene about a man staring at a white ceiling can be compelling if it’s infused with emotional tension. He also told us that he believes good authors have instincts about what to include in a book, and those instincts should be respected.  We have to devote a lot of work to drawing out the inner meaning of awkward scenes before we let them go.

I have to figure out a way to infuse this dress scene with emotional tension so the reader can’t tear herself away from it. That’s my challenge. If I don’t succeed before I go to bed tomorrow night, I’m deleting it.

*Photo by ~Evangeline-Theodora at


7 thoughts on “Stuck on a Scene

  1. Hallie says:

    Hmmm, that does sound challenging. But “You can do it!” quote by Rob Schneider 🙂

  2. Rima says:

    Honestly? If it bores you to write it, it’ll probably bore a reader to read it. Unless you find yourself compelled to continue writing the scene, I would cut it out. Good luck! 🙂

  3. Heather J. says:

    So … what did you end up doing with this scene?!

  4. Erika Robuck says:

    I stripped down the interaction to its basics and embedded it within a larger scene. It works much better, or at least, well enough for me to move on and revisit it later.

  5. Lara Taylor says:

    I have to agree with Rima! 😉

    Something I do when I’m struggling with a scene that I’m dying to keep but just doesn’t fit: I cut it, paste it on a new, blank document, save it and put it in a folder just labeled “scenes.” I continue to work and inevitably, I come to a point, whether in some other part of the book or when I’m revising, where I suddenly think—hey, where’s that scene?? I need that scene Right Here! Or alternately, I am going back through my scenes folder and find it and go, “hm, totally forgot about that scene.” It’s almost like curbing an impulse buy! lol sometimes you need to get away from it to realize, you don’t really need it!

    If I feel that strongly, I also analyze why I like it so much—is it what it illustrates about the character? Is it the emotion behind it? Is it the tension? Am I trying to contribute something to the plot or move it along? And if so, why isn’t that working? If I feel the scene is just totally awkward where it is or just not doing its job, I at least try to preserve its purpose when I revise it, even if that means it looks quite a bit different by the time I”m done! 🙂 Not to argue with Mr. Maass, he’s awesome! 🙂 I’m glad to hear you figured out a solution, I know that’s frustrating!! Good Luck!

  6. Erika Robuck says:

    Great suggestions, Lara!!

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