Tactical Tuesday: Advice for Self-Editing

I’ve had a lot of questions lately regarding scenes and chapter breaks. While there is no steadfast rule with regard to where a scene break should occur or when the story should advance to another chapter, here is a little food for thought.

In a contemporary romance, if the events in two scenes occur during the same day, giving each point-of-view (POV) character a scene is fun to do. This does not mean that the events have to occur at the same time or in the same place. Actually, if the event is one and the same, and the POV character is switched, a good self-editor will review the scenes to determine if there actually needs to be any break at all.

When reviewing such scenes, and for all scenes, the first question to ask is, “Which character has the most to win or to lose in the scene?” That character should be the POV character.

If the story is romantic suspense and the villain requires a POV on that same day, an author may do one of two things: if the villain’s POV doesn’t require a specific emphasis, allow it to be the third scene for that chapter. If the villain is particularly devious or the author wants to let him standout a bit, the villain may actually be given his own scene.

If a scene occurs in the same day, but the actions of the hero or heroine are removed a bit from the last scene or if that scene requires emphasis, this might be a good place for a chapter break. 

As you can see, scene and chapter breaks are decisions that can work to build an author’s voice. 

The one mistake an author wants to check against is a tendency to be episodic and to include smaller scenes of a paragraph or so. When an author finds a number of short scenes like this, he should look for areas where that information can easily be integrated to scenes that come before or after.

Happy editing.


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