I follow a ton of writing blogs, always on the lookout for useful tips to increase my writing skills. After having done this for several years, I’ve reached the point where I don’t come across many pieces of advice I haven’t seen before. Occasionally I’ll come across a post that approaches a topic from a different angle, but for the most part, I already know what the blogger is going to say. Of course, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes it’s good to be reminded of what you already know.
Case in point. Last week I was beating a chapter into submission (I never said my process was elegant), and feeling pretty good about it, at least until I came across a post by David Farland describing how to decide whether a scene is necessary to the story. Among other things, he points out that something needs to have changed by the end of the scene. If a scene can be removed and the story still makes sense, then the scene probably doesn't need to be there in the first place.
Now I’ve heard this before, and I’ve used this technique to tighten up my stories in the past, but as soon as I read that post, I realized one of the scenes I was editing didn’t really progress the story. Back when that scene had originally been written (an embarrassing long time ago), it had been a necessary part of the story, but after multiple revisions, the important parts had either been dropped or moved somewhere else and what remained no longer qualified as a necessary scene. And if I hadn’t been reminded to check my scenes for their worthiness, I never would have thought about checking again.
The moral of the story is this. No matter how much I learn about writing, I’ll always depend upon my critique partners, beta readers, and writing bloggers to remind me of those things I already know.
So what do your beta-readers have to remind you about the most?