It’s still summertime, a little on the warm side here in the Northwest, so I’m moving a bit slower than usual. But writers still need tips! NanoWriMo (National November Writing Month) will be here before you know it.
Writing Tip for Today: Here’s a list of short and sweet tips to help improve your drafted fictional scenes:
- Thinking about writing is not writing. Get your BIC (Buns in Chair). Show up and write.
- At the beginning of each session, remind yourself that you first need to complete a draft—until that draft is complete, you won’t be doing any heavy edits. Reread your last efforts, but resist the urge to overhaul the scene. Fix typos or other mistakes, but finish the scene. And then go straight to the next scene.
- If you tend to create your story first through dialogue, you’ll wind up with Talking Heads. If this helps you with word count, go ahead and do it. Don’t forget though, at some point you’ll need to pay attention to the other scene elements. One great way to do this is to act out the dialogue and imagine those other elements (sight, taste, smell, touch and action) as you read the parts.
- When you’re finished drafting a scene, read it aloud, either to yourself, your dog or a writing critique partner. Do not read aloud to your spouse, your mom or your BFF—they’ll either love it or they’ll take you down one too many notches and discourage you.
- As you draft each scene, make a card (or post-it note or use Scrivener or jot down a simple list) for that scene by summarizing the main action in one or two short sentences. If you create one card per scene as you write, you will not have to go through your book to storyboard your novel after it is drafted.
- If you can’t summarize the action of a scene in a sentence or two, your scene needs remedial help. Every scene needs a goal and problem, and your point of view character should either win, lose or draw in every scene.
- Research can slow down your drafting. Keep moving the story forward as you draft, inserting a general label such as SSLT (for Some Stuff Like That) that you can use find and replace on later. The more you stop to research, the more you hinder your draft’s progress.
- When you’re ready to end a writing session, if possible, stop in the middle of a scene. On your next session, simply reread what you wrote and then finish the scene. I think this method is easier than a “cold” scene start. Alternately, type a short note to yourself to remind you of where you left off or how you were thinking the next bit should go. I type these hints in all caps or else highlight in yellow.
- Let your draft “cool off” before you edit. A novel should sit for at least a couple of weeks—preferably longer.
- Edit for the Big Picture first, using those scene cards to see the story’s structure or lack thereof. If you tinker with sentences that you end up not using, you’ve wasted some time.
- Learn to edit many times—like the layers of an onion. Writing is rewriting.
- When you’ve gone as far as you can go, start a new project and/or hire an editor.
- Take your time with the agent-shopping phase. A wise mentor once said, “You never have a second chance to make a first impression.”
- Always be learning. You’ll never know it all.
- Write every day.