I'm not sure the many-armed statue of Shiva is the best image to represent this post, but it's important to use open licensed images, so it's what we've got.
Anyway, today I want to discuss one of many revision techniques I use. That is, for lack of a better term: do at least two things at once. And I don't mean multi-tasking, though the photo may imply otherwise. What I mean is, while reading back through a manuscript, and revising it, one thing I try to focus on is making sure that every scene accomplishes at least two things. Here are some examples of goals that scenes can strive for:
- Furthering the reader's understanding of a character
- Furthering the reader's understanding of the world
- Describing the setting
- Foreshadowing a coming plot element
- Echoing a past plot element
- Speaking to theme
- Ramping up tension
- Purposefully slowing down (or speeding up) pace
There are dozens, if not hundreds more, and I would love to see more examples in the comments, but I'm sure this list is enough to make my point.
Of course we all know about the four rhetorical modes of discourse: exposition, argumentation, description, and narration. While argumentation isn't much used in fiction, sometimes, depending on point of view and narrative distance, two of the others can be done at once. But that's not really what I mean either.
Whatever the method may be, and certain methods work better for certain types of scenes (dialog vs. action, for example, or inner thoughts vs. description) the point is to try to make sure that every scene exists for more than one reason, and that it accomplishes at least both of those goals (hopefully more than two, but by having a rule of at least two, I find that helps me decide what to trim).
I wish I could share an example from my own work, but I've got nothing published except for some very short flash fiction/vignettes, and they don't really follow the same rules as longer stories. Hopefully this technique makes enough sense to be understood without an example, but feel free to share one if you have one (or more goals that scenes can strive for)!