That One Damn Scene

I’m deep into revisions right now for my second book. As you may remember from a previous post, I finished the first draft at the beginning of April, and am now working on the second draft, after having received feedback and suggestions from both my agent and my number one critique partner. I also let it sit for about a month and a half before returning to it – during which time I went to Italy to do some research 🙂 More info about that, and about the book itself, coming soon…

A month is my minimum amount of time that I let a draft sit before returning to it. Longer is better, if possible. For one thing, I know that after finishing a draft of a manuscript, I absolutely need some time to recharge, when I’m not writing or revising anything, but just restoring the creative juices. For another, I need as much distance from the manuscript as possible to help me come back to it with the fresh eyes that every writer knows are essential for revisions.

Just like the first draft, though, the second draft of this one started out very slowly. It was obstinate and difficult and was fighting with me again. I couldn’t figure out why – hadn’t I fought through this already the first time around? And hadn’t I conquered it?

Perhaps it was just the ghosts of my frustration and discouragement from the first draft coming back to haunt me. But I pushed through it, like you do, and things began picking up again.

Until, of course, I got to That One Damn Scene.

You know, that one scene that gives you trouble in every draft, that takes you forever to get through, that is just a continual struggle. I experienced this to a lesser extent with Violinist. There’s a scene where Adriana is taken to the opera by her suitor that is a) a long chapter, b) important to establishing both their relationship and later conflicts between characters, and c) did I mention long? There’s a lot of description in it, as well. Anyway, I always had to somewhat brace myself for every trip through that chapter, as it just always took forever and seemed like a whole thing. (Fun fact: it is maybe the only scene in the book that remains more or less intact, in terms of what actually happens, from the first draft. And that, my friends, is a hard and unpalatable truth about writing novels).

Yet with book two, That One Damn Scene is a beast of a completely different stripe. It took me forever to initially draft it – months, to be specific. As in, I stopped midway through that scene, wrote another, completely different book, and then came back to it.

And it took me forever to get through it in the second draft, as well.

But why? The best I can figure is that this scene is pretty important, and sets up essentially everything that hasn’t already been set up in the preceding pages. It introduces the rest of the cast of characters, as well as the most important character besides my main character/narrator. They meet for the first time in this scene. It also introduces a place/setting where much of the rest of the book will take place. It’s also a place that I visited while in Florence, and as such part of my task during revisions was to re-describe it based on what I saw while I was there.

So it made sense to take my time writing it initially, and to go through it slowly again in revision. And A LOT about this scene has changed in revision – specifically, I added a lot. About two thousand words, to be exact. Again, most of this was based on the new knowledge I gained after my trip to Italy, and some of it was fixing issues from the first draft – in other words, the whole purpose of a second draft.

And I didn’t even leave it to write another book this time – HAHA. No, really, I didn’t.

Anyway, that scene has now officially earned the title of That One Damn Scene. I now have very superstitious feelings towards this scene. I expect it to always fight with me, and to always take forever to get through, in every incarnation.

And maybe it should. Like I said, it’s an important scene.

So what about all of you? Has anyone else run into That One Damn Scene in most, if not all, of your manuscripts?


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