Writers are an interesting breed. The very act of dreaming up stories and writing them down requires a god-like sense of arrogance. We breathe life into our characters, name them, assign them physical attributes, and torture them with gut-wrenching backstories and insurmountable obstacles. We chose their careers, their hometowns, their worst fears and their best traits. Hell, within the confines of our stories, we even get to control the weather.
Given all the power we wield, you’d think writers would be uber-confident. Well, ninety-nine percent of the time, you would be wrong.
Actually, we are a very insecure bunch. We’re afraid to start a story, or worse yet, to finish one. We worry about showing our work to strangers. We fret over sentence structure, plot twists, word counts and point-of-view.
Further highlighting our unique self-struggles, we often get so close to our stories and our characters that we lose our ability to judge whether or not a good scene is good for our plot.
This is my latest issue. Recently, I wrote a scene that made me cry, and not those pretty, weepy tears you see in movies. Oh, no. We’re talking about loud sniffles and using my shoulder as a tissue. Even on second pass, the words still moved me. But even now, two weeks after the initial writing, I can’t decide if this moving, heartfelt scene even belongs in this book.
How frustrating! I mean, as a fan, I love it when an author can make me cry, when the characters are so real, the action so authentic and the consequences so dire that I’m fully, emotionally committed to the outcome. But when I put those same ingredients into my own story, rather than patting myself on the back, I’ve been walking around trying to convince myself that the scene is gratuitous and must go.
I have to admit, the heart of this scene hits one of my own personal mush-buttons: the father-daughter bond. Honestly, I tear up during the commercial where the dad takes a selfie with his college-bound daughter. My inner critique (who is way mouthier than my miniscule god-like streak) insists my reaction to this scene has nothing to do with the character’s growth or the plot progression and everything to do with my personal history.
It sucks to be such a wishy-washy emotional lightweight! My first instinct was, of course, to present the scene to my critique partners and let them decide for me, but I’m trying to grow and improve here, so instead, I hunkered down and decided to figure this one out on my own.
I’ve re-read the scene, not to mention the one before it and the one following. I have to admit, this chapter does drag a bit. And perhaps the point my character is trying to make would be better served with a “teaching by example” real-time action. Or maybe the lesson is good, but the timing is off. But no matter my justifications, I simply can’t bring myself to cut this scene.
Man, the writing stuff is hard.
So what’s a writer to do? Well, I’m not sure I’ve got the right answer, but I have settled on the “right now” answer.
I’m leaving it in. And yes, I’m running it through my critique group – not so they can make my decision for me, but so they can give me informed feedback.
You see, after all this angst, I realized a few things. Number one, the scene flowed so easily from my brain through my fingertips and onto the page, and that tells me that something within those paragraphs is important to my overall plot. Number two, just because I can’t bring myself to delete those pages today doesn’t mean I won’t be able to later, if and when I feel certain they need to go. And number three, this connection between me and my heroine will only strengthen our bond and, ultimately, make her the type of character readers will one day cheer for and, hopefully, find a home for on their keeper shelves.
Back when her twin sons were young enough for daily naps, Dawn Temple took advantage of those quiet moments to pursue her dream of becoming a published romance writer. Sneaking in an hour here and there paid off in 2005 when she sold her first book, To Have And To Hold, to Silhouette Special Edition. She managed to secret away enough time to write and sell the second book in her Land’s Cross series, Moonlight And Mistletoe, but alas, her boys outgrew naps and Dawn let go of those stolen moments with her laptop to enjoy life with her two little guys and her big guy, hubby of 21 years.
But now, as an officially retired stay-at-home mom, Dawn has once again found the time and the creative drive to return to writing, and this time around, she’s set her sights on independent publishing. Her first self-published book, Peace of Heart, is scheduled for release in 2017.