fleshing out a scene

Do you ever have a tendency to underwrite the scenes in your first draft and realize that you need to do some fleshing out in your rewrites? In today’s Behind The Rewrite, romance author Suzanne Jefferies talks about exactly that situation and shares a before and after except from her novel The Ex Factor.

Suzanne’s Behind The Rewrite

Revising, rewriting, and polishing all seem like dirty words to the writer who wants to write, write, write. But, the editing and rewriting process makes all difference between a not-quite-there manuscript and a finished one.

I have a tendency to underwrite rather than overwrite, meaning that I always have to go back and flesh out actions, settings and dialogue. In this passage, during the writing process, I knew what it was I wanted to say, but my ‘shorthand’ first draft would leave a reader completely confused.

These were the major edits to this extract from The Ex-Factor:

1. Sylvie became Sylvia

2. I elaborated where necessary (underwriting’s inevitable outcome). So, in the first line of description, I’ve added “as she stretched,” otherwise, why is her back arched? Unless, she sits like that normally…!

3. I switched the entire manuscript from third person to first person. You can see where I missed one in the line, “I poured himself a coffee.”

4. The paragraph that starts, “She looked at me from under her false eyelashes…” was too long winded and verged on whiny. He and his wife were still friends, but I didn’t want him to sound bitter. I switched the verb tense from present participles to infinitives which clipped the writing tighter. Also, I edited out the ‘woe is me’ explanation.

5. Sylvia’s dialogue has changed to be more in keeping with her go-getter personality. The addition of “I’m busy, you’re busy. Saturday is just another day to bring home the big ones. Besides, I thought you’d like to see how our baby is doing,” lets the reader know she’s there to talk about business with her ex-husband, even if it’s a Saturday morning.But, I left in the line “C’mon, Jackles, you know you want to,” because she is flirty with him. As it read in the ‘before’, she just sounds flirty which was the wrong vibe altogether.

6. I added the thought, “Was it too early for a shot of whisky with that?” to further elaborate that although he didn’t relish the barging in on his wife, he wasn’t angry. The last thing I wanted my reader to think was that he had unresolved issues with his ex-wife (because that’s not what the story’s about!)

developing a scene in a book

Original Scene

Sylvie arched her back upwards, revealing the perfect curves of her breasts. Once upon a time that move would have rendered me as ravenous as a rabid dog for her. Not anymore. I was older and I sure as heck was wiser.

“I thought we could have a look and see how our baby was doing.”

She looked up at me from under her false eyelashes. I could almost see the glue holding them in place. How long did she use to take putting those lashes on, straightening her hair, pouring on body lotion, and how little time did she take listening to anything I said, providing the support I needed as I battled away night after night trying to build the career I had? “C’mon Jackles, you know you want to.”

I knew no such thing. “You could have called first.”

“Evidently. You two? I had no idea. Is it serious?”

“We’ll see.” I poured himself a coffee.

Rewritten Scene

Sylvia arched her back upwards, revealing the perfect curves of her breasts as she stretched. Once upon a time that move would have rendered me as ravenous as a rabid dog for her. Not any more. I was older and I sure as heck was wiser. “I’m busy, you’re busy. Saturday is just another day to bring home the big ones. Besides, I thought you’d like to see how our baby is doing.” She looked up at me from under her false eyelashes. I could almost see the glue holding them in place. How well I remembered the time it took to put those lashes on. And to straighten the hair, and to apply the body lotion, and to touch up her nails…and how little time she took to actually listen to anything I’d said. “C’mon Jackles, you know you want to.”

I knew no such thing. “You could have called first.”

“Evidently. You two? I had no idea. Is it serious?”

“We’ll see.” I poured myself some coffee. Was it too early for a shot of whisky with that?

Want To Read The Rest Of The Book?

The Ex Factor by Suzanne Jefferies (The Jozi Series, Book 3) – He’s a six pack. She’s fine champagne. He’s the race track. She’s the theatre. But, Jacques past is Madge’s present – can they see a future together?

Madge Everson, a committed commitment-phobe has an elaborate series of rules and regulations around dating, all designed to keep Mr. Right far, far away. But she didn’t bank on Jacques de Villiers, a supposed playboy who keeps her on her toes, negotiating her emotional barbed wire. Just when she thought it was safe to trust again, she finds out that he has an ex in his closet…not only a woman she knows but a woman she strives to be.

More About Suzanne

Suzanne Jefferies loves to write romance from contemporary to the downright blush-worthy. Her novel, The Joy of Comfort Eating won the 2016 ROSA Imbali Award for excellence in romance writing, and she won the 2011 Mills & Boon Voice of Africa competition.

Join her Facebook group Suzanne’s Sinners, Saints & Lovers, follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, or visit her at www.suzannejefferies.com.

Opportunities For Writers

Are you an author interested in writing a Behind the Rewrite guest blog post? Get the guidelines here.

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