So what do you think? Okay, maybe I blindsided you with that question and you need some context. Last night, I submitted one of my manuscripts to an editor for consideration. As part of the submission process, the editor asked me to give them ‘my best scene’ or approx the first 1000 words (4-5 pages) of my manuscript. I had a decision to make. Would I take the easy way out and send my first pages or would I really think about ‘my best scene’. I decided to make it hard on myself (don’t I always?).
So I paged through 368 pages (91,000 words) to find my best scene and it was REALLY hard to decide. Why? Well for several reasons which I will outline below 😉
It’s hard to pick just one scene. No that is not an egotistical statement, but it is a truthful one. If a writer doesn’t have multiple scenes that they like in their novel then I would argue it isn’t ready to submit for consideration.
But the bigger issue that I ran into when deciding ‘best scene’ was the following:
Is a scene a best scene when taken out of context? Much like me asking you a question above with no explanation, many good scenes rely on the scenes that have come before it. A big reveal or a big showdown is made all the more powerful by the twists and turns that lead you to it. Readers would probably argue that the best scenes involve the final battle or the point when the couple reconcile at the end. Others would argue that the breakup scene (betrayal) scene that happens somewhere half-way to three-quarters of the way through the book is the best scene. But if these are read as stand alone scenes from the book, does it really pack the same wallop as reading the entire book?
I think if boils down to investment. The reader is invested in the book and the characters when these scenes occur. So the better question may be, what is the best scene that can stand on its own? Now THAT is the hardest question of all.
So what did I decide? Well, I actually really like the beginning of my book, but didn’t want to cave on that. I also really like the big battle and the breakup and confrontation of the couple. But I didn’t go with any of those. Instead, I chose a scene that has a surprise in it for the heroine. The book is funny and sarcastic and I wanted to convey this with the scene and I didn’t want to play too heavily on the hero/heroine relationship since that needed some back story to make it poignant. I asked several of my beta readers what they thought about the scene and they liked the one I chose. Of course they read the whole book, so what comes across as good to them may fall flat in a stand alone scene.
Was this the right choice? I hope so. In reality I am not sure that there is such a thing as a ‘best scene’. But it was an educational experience and maybe that is what the editor was going for. Writers should reflect on their books and the scenes that make them up. It makes me think about what my ‘best scene’ is or will be in my work in progress.