Skip the Boring Bits

So you’re slogging through a chapter that you don’t want to write. Yet you persist because you have to finish it to get to the real scene. The one you’re dying to write. Why not cut the boring bits and get on with the fun stuff?

I mean, if it’s drudgery to you, then most likely the reader will want to skip it too. I find this happening to me. I have two awesome scenes connected by some transition scenes. You know. The characters move from here to there. Information or back story needs to appear. Scene description. All that is necessary, but writing it is a chore.

Lately I try to cut that stuff. I think of my book as a film and say, would I want to watch that? Often, the answer is no. Here are some techniques to avoid the boring bits.

Jump Cuts

Filmmakers use these for a reason. Rather than showing your hero driving to the next scene, show him stepping into a car. Then insert a line break. A line break can be a line of white space (no text), or you can fill it with a few asterisks. The next paragraph can start in the new locale. No need to show said hero exiting. The reader gets that. We’ve lived though MTV long enough to understand the jump cut and make the connection.

Bread Crumbs

Handel and Gretel used them and so should you. Sprinkle your description out over the whole scene. If you drop it all in one block, you’re likely to bore the pants off your reader. Give us the most important details first. Then add more as the scene progresses.

I often use character details or scene details as beats between dialogue. A beat is a natural pause in the rhythm of a speaker. I hate the phrase “a long moment” so instead I try to create that moment of silence with a crumb of description or a character action.

Dialogue

This is the best place to weave in back story or needed information. But be subtle. No one wants dialogue that sounds like it’s an excuse for an info-dump. In other words, have a damn good reason for the characters to be talking about this.

Ever wonder why so many SciFi and action flicks have the rookie character? It’s because that character can then ask all the questions the reader/viewer wants to know.

Kill the Idle

When you start your car up, it idles for a bit as the engine warms up. Then you pull out into traffic and let loose. Writers do the same thing. At the start of a novel, and certain key scenes, the writer is working out what the story and the characters are all about. Often this writing is filled with long descriptions, bad dialogue, and unnecessary transitions.

The solution is simple. After you’ve written what you think is your first chapter (or beginning to a new scene) read back through and think about how much of this you could miss and still get what’s going on. Pretend you arrived late to the movie. Where would be the last point you’d need to enter? Start your novel or scene there and cut the rest. Yes cut it. Copy it to another file if it helps you sleep at night, but get rid of it.

So the next time you write, take some advice from Elmore Leonard: Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

Tim Kane

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About Tim Kane

Tim Kane is a young adult fiction writer.
This entry was posted in Writing Advice and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Skip the Boring Bits

  1. Great advice! I’m going to share it with my students.

  2. Pingback: Top Picks Thursday 03-22-2012 « The Author Chronicles

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