Cut your weakest player — Rule #26 of 32 Simple Rules to the Writing the Best Novel Ever


I’m dissecting the article Hunting Down the Pleonasm, by Allen Guthrie, using it as a cattle prod to search for little nasties in my manuscript.  Yep, you can join in the fun, too.  Let’s take a looksee at topic #26

26: When you finish your book, pinpoint the weakest scene. Cut it. If necessary, replace it with a sentence or paragraph.

I have contradicting views on this.  If I was reading this with my first novel (that I pantsed) in my hands, I’d say “yes”… and to probably more than one scene.  However, now that I am outlining and clearly plotting my novels, I’m not so sure this is true.

I’d agree to cut it is it has no conflict, or does not draw the story forward. That’s a given.

My fear is that if everyone follows this rule, they will take out important scenes, and replace them with three sentences of summary… which is a form of tell.

I’m going to put my foot down and NOT agree with this one.

What do you think?



20 responses to “Cut your weakest player — Rule #26 of 32 Simple Rules to the Writing the Best Novel Ever

  1. I think the question is, Why did you consider it the weakest scene? If it is actually a weak scene and does not add value, cutting it make sense.

    • Agreed. I just came across a weak scene today. It actually fits into what he had to say. Oddly enough, it was a scene that was off-outline that I added to get a simple point across. I need to stick to my outlines.

  2. To me, a weak scene would be one that doesn’t move the plot forward, like you said, or one that does not really need to be included in the overall scheme of things. If it has no relevance and might be in there just for sentimental reasons, get rid of it! If there is any hint in the scene that might be considered foreshadowing, or if it is provide clarity about a particular plot point, by all means, leave it in. Anything that does not improve upon the story as a whole has no business being in your best seller. 🙂

  3. That might work for those of us who write crap, but for those of you who write solid stories, I’m sure that you would know if deleting that scene improves the story or not. Trust your gut on this one. xo

    • Knowing and doing are two very different things. I write a scene yesterday that I knew I would cut AS I WAS WRITING IT. Didn’t stop me from finishing the scene though. Silly writer.

  4. I agree with you, Jennifer!

  5. I would try to judge how crucial it is to the plot. If important things happen, but are awkwardly told, then I’d revise rather than cut. But if the scene was something I wrote just to keep some momentum on the first draft, then out it goes!

  6. I agree this rule isn’t clear to me.

  7. There is a hidden axiom in there: your writing is always bad. Otherwise there would not be removable scenes.

    I can see the argument for trimming from a second draft if you tend to draft loosely the first time around and are running long; however, I know writers who create a tight outline and rework each scene until they feel it is ready then move to the next, so it would kill their process.

    • Yes. This is me lately. I can’t imagine many scenes I could just cut. But I am editing my first draft now in a full read through, so I might change my mind after seeing what I’ve done. (Or not done)

      • Exactly. There is a huge difference between being open to the possibility some prose might not be good and internalising the lesson that no matter how good you are part of your work is worthless.

  8. I’ve been doing this a lot with ‘connector’ paragraphs or scenes. They’re important but not so much that you have to go into great detail. Just a few words, a short bridge, to get your reader from A to B.

  9. Gwen Stephens

    The rule seems pretty vague – weak how? What if it’s just written weakly? Why just cut it? Why not improve it? Especially if it’s important to the plot.