Now and then, I come across a scene in my writing that I desperately want to like. It might be beautifully written, or it might contain some interesting details, or it might contain a charming minor character. Nonetheless, the scene comes across as lackluster and screams “delete me” at full volume. More often then not, this is because the scene isn’t doing enough work for my narrative.
A good story is like a well-designed machine. All of its parts work well together, and no part is left unemployed. A bloated narrative is hard to follow and tends to bore your reader. If you want to make sure that your stories are lean, mean, reader-engaging machines, you should make sure that every scene is doing plenty of work for your story.
Its is not enough for a scene to “add to the scenery description” or “add to the character development.” Your strongest scenes will do two or three different jobs for your story, and if you want to succeed as a commercial writer, your work needs to be entirely composed of your strongest scenes. If you like a scene but don’t know if you need it, ask yourself what it’s contributing to the story. Is there information elsewhere that you could convey in this scene instead? If so, then great! You can shorten a less interesting part of your narrative and help this scene be stronger and more useful.
Being efficient with your writing is more than a matter of wise word choice and effective sentence structure. It also involves making sure that every scene in your story contributes to more than one element of your narrative. Although you don’t want to overburden your scenes, making sure that they’re all gainfully employed is an important part of strengthening your writing.