When I made the original structure outline for my novel, I included a lot of chapters that are no longer there and hadn’t even thought of the chapters that are now the most pivotal.
I didn’t believe writers when they said their characters lead the story in a different direction than planned, because I didn’t think these fictional folk could influence the writer’s ideas and intentions… but then it happened to me!
One of my characters in particular has developed so well in my mind that it made me realise she wouldn’t react the way I was originally planning and inevitably that some chapters were pointless. I mean they didn’t push the plot along or help with the understanding of the character. Nothing was revealed and no sticky situation arose that would add to the plot- it was just a cute, little scene about her. The novel wasn’t enhanced by its presence.
The decision to cut a chapter is a tough one. Especially after working so hard on writing and editing the damn thing for it to be for nothing. However no word you write has been for nothing. Every sentence has pushed you further into a world of your creation and helped you as the writer learn more about your characters and what their story is, even if the readers never get to witness every event originally in the plot.
The chapter I decided to cut was about my protagonist struggling with a potential anxiety attack in class (and it also contained my first attempt at smut, which I realised I’m so not comfortable writing so that had to go anyway). In all honesty, it was a write-up of my own experience (the anxiety, not the smut) which I had leant to my character, and when I wrote it, the whole event worked well with my character and the plot… however the more I discovered about her, the less the chapter felt like it was hers. It stuck out to me, like an intruder failing to disguise itself. It had to go.
So, is the story better without that chapter? Yes. I believe so.
My advice is: if you are unsure about a chapter, cut it and read how the story progresses without it – get others to read that version too – but DON’T DELETE YOUR WRITING! Save your text somewhere else so if you decide the story is better with it, you can easily paste it back in. Or if it’s a chapter you like but the novel doesn’t need it, you could always use it later as extra material for your readers!