Tag Archives: novel chapters

Don’t Careen Off that Ledge: Keep on Track with Your Writing

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It can be a challenge to stay focused on your writing, especially if you don’t have anyone helping to keep you accountable for your novel. So what do you do when you’re sitting in front of your computer, staring at the word document in front of you and feeling like you would rather be anywhere else but working on your novel?

One thing to do is to give yourself some space from your writing. If you’re sick of your novel and are being unproductive, then it would be better to take some time off from writing. The trick here is to give yourself a time limit. Whether its three days, one week, or two weeks, you have a set date at which you’ll go back to your writing.

Another option is to make a writing schedule. This has two parts:

  1. Set dates for your writing, such as when you plan on having the first three chapters written by or when you want to have the first draft of the novel written.
  2. Know your most productive writing time. Are you most creative and focused in the morning, afternoon, evening? Try to work your schedule around to be able to write when you’re most productive.

Join a critique group. This is a great way to be held accountable for getting pages written by a certain date. Plus, you’ll be getting feedback on your writing and you’ll have a support group made up of other writers, who understand the frustrations, high points, and pitfalls of writing.

Break the novel down into scenes. Sometimes thinking about how you have to write an 80,000 word novel can be daunting, and discouraging. So rather than focusing on the big picture, think of the novel in terms of scene. A scene isn’t that big. It’s typically a chapter or part of a chapter. Before you know it, your scenes will add up to that 80,000 word goal (or whatever word count you’ve set for yourself).

Probably the most important thing to remember is that writing should be fun. It’s so much easier to write about something you enjoy, and since writing a novel is a huge endeavor, why would you spend so much time writing something you didn’t enjoy?

How do you keep yourself on track?

(Photo courtesy of Pixshark.)

What’s in a Scene? Part 1.

When readers open a book, they expect to be enthralled by our writing. They want to become absorbed by the scenes, so that they find themselves in the middle of the fictional world you’ve created. However, sometimes writers miss the mark and readers are left standing on the outside, looking in.

If you’ve ever gotten feedback that sounds something like this, “Nothing really happened in this chapter,” or, “I felt like I could put the book down at this point,” or, “There’s something off here, but I can’t put my finger on it,” or, sometimes, “I don’t remember what happened in the scene I just read,” then you’ve missed the mark and readers aren’t getting sucked in.

How do we, as writers, go about remedying this?

We need to make sure each scene has a reason to be there. If there’s no point to the scene, or the chapter, then it can be cut. (I know that’s a bit harsh sounding. We dedicate so much time to writing each scene that it can be a challenge to discard some of them, but doing so can make your novel better.)

The best scenes are those that impact readers and characters in diverse ways.

Here are some ways to create good scenes:

  1. Throw in a twist…as long as it makes sense. No random loopholes, please.
  2. Have a hope or a goal revealed, faced, challenged, turn into a failure, etc. This applies to fears as well.
  3. Increase the anticipation and/or up the stakes.
  4. Foreshadow. This is a great way to keep readers interested, just don’t go overboard. Too much foreshadowing can overwhelm readers or make them roll their eyes because the answers to the story’s main questions become obvious before they’re meant to.
  5. Incorporate events that move the story along. Have a big battle looming in the near future? What kind of things do you have to do to prepare for that battle? What obstacles do you face?
  6. Answer a few of the story’s questions…or raise a few more questions. You can always do both. By answering one question, three more may be brought to light. And those three may be tougher to answer than the original question.
  7. Bring in new, important information about the story or characters. However, if you’re going to do this make sure this information comes about in a natural way. The new information should feel organic to the story.
  8. Look at your characters. How do your characters change throughout the scene? Are these changes physical, emotional, both? How do the events within the story alter the characters’ perceptions of themselves and the world around them? At what moment(s) do these changes occur?

Creating good scenes is more than just having a goal dashed or learning to swordfight or getting your first kiss, it’s about flow. Without a natural flow, scenes can feel stilted and artificial.

Have you ever read a book where you just can’t put it down? You put off doing other things, or you forget about them altogether because you’re absorbed with the novel you’re reading?

If the answer’s yes, then that novel flowed well. The transitions between sentences, paragraphs, and chapters were so smooth you didn’t notice them. (When transitions aren’t smooth, readers get pulled out of the story because they stumble over those transitions. They lose their focus and have to find it again in order to get back into the story.)

In a way, scenes are a balancing act. You have to focus on various elements to pull off an engaging scene. If one of those elements is lacking, readers will feel something is wrong, even if they can’t tell you what they feel is off about that scene.

Next week, I’ll post about how to create smooth transitions.

What things do you do to create enticing scenes?