Revising a novel is always tricky…cut too much and you lose something of the spirit, leave the material as it is and old structural problems remain. A few thoughts on the matter:
- If a scene or character seems utterly believable to you, keep it. At the same time, take advice on how to improve the section in question.
- When faced with huge amounts of back story, compromise rather than cut. Some scenes are more important than others. Some aren’t that important at all. Can the story progress without the scene? If not, keep.
- Always remember to make a note of the small changes along the way and to implement them in the manuscript as you go along. For example, maybe you’ve shifted a scene to a different day.
- Keep a written list of story questions nearby to prevent the material from losing focus.
- If more than five people suggest that a scene isn’t working, remove the scene.
- Before cutting material, place it in a spare file in case you need to retrieve the deleted scene. (This is crucial. See also article on backing up work.)
- If you can, read the story out loud to get a sense of the rhythm.