Friday, April 9, 2010

Thinking in Scenes

In parallel with reading lots of MG and YA books for my 100 book challenge (and making good progress on that, by the way), I'm also reading The Fire in Fiction by Donald Maass. I occasionally worry that with each new novel, my writing technique won't show much change from the last one. So, picking up a book on writing technique from time to time helps me feel like I'm trying to apply something new in my writing (along with all the great tips I get from my critiquers).

Lately, I've been thinking about scenes. A key strategy Maass suggests is to make sure there is a goal for each scene, so it advances the plot. While I don't get too hung up on these kinds of things when I'm writing a first draft (maybe I should?), I do keep a separate file that gives a short summary of what happens in each scene, something like this example from Novel #2:

Chapter 1
1: Molly shows Kayla changes in their house

2:  Molly & Kayla speculate about cousins

More recently, I've been writing slightly more to describe what happens in each scene, including the key interactions between characters, ending up with a brief summary that other people besides me could actually understand. It helps me stay on track. But maybe I should be including the first and last lines as well? Any other ways to keep track of what's happening in your scenes?


  1. I love reading THE FIRE IN FICTION. It's a really great craft book.

    I write in scenes first and then separate into chapters. One thing that helps me is to state the conflict (doesn't have to be high drama) as well as the main players. I wouldn't get too caught up in it -- something quick so that you can see what happens. After you finish your draft you can then see quickly what you need to work on for revision.

    Good luck!

  2. One of my local crit partners writes the goal and the failure of the main character for each scene--how s/he failed in reaching the goal and how that failure changes his/her goal. I tried it for my last novel and it definitely ups the angst levels. :)

    I need timelines myself or I end up with eight day weeks.

  3. Yeah, timelines are important, Kate. In my last WIP, it took way too many chapters to get through the first day.

    Stating the conflict is a great idea, Karen. Thanks!

  4. Andrea- This is so great! This is exactly what I've been thinking about. It is important to think if the scenes are needed and what the outcomes they bring. Thank you for these ideas.

    Kate- I like your friend's idea. I'm going to steal it!

  5. Christy, I think so too. When I do this as I go along, it helps me stay on track, too.


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