Tuesday, May 11, 2021

The First 5 Scenes to Start Your Novel

With these five key scenes, you can begin to write your novel. First you need to be able to define what they are. Once you know your scenes, all you have to do is start writing. You’ll likely still need to create a plot outline at some point, but if you’re eager to get started, this should help.






Key Scene #1


The first major plot point is what some people would call the inciting incident. This is where something external happens to your main character that sets the story in motion, perhaps the discovery of something new, or the arrival of someone or something.

While this is the first major scene and holds a pivotal role in your novel, it is not the book’s opening scene. Once you write this scene, you can always work your way backward and include the details of your character’s life beforehand.

 

Key Scene #2


Next up is what I like to call the gunshot because when you run in a race, the gunshot signals the start of the journey. Yes, many important things must happen after that first scene - before you reach this second main plot point, but this could easily be the second scene you write.

This scene could be when your character gets on a boat, a plane, a train, or a car and physically travels to a new location. Not all stories are this explicit, but the scene you write should represent your character beginning a new journey.


Key Scene #3


The third key scene to help you start writing your novel is what happens in the middle of your story. There is likely a key turning point, or a significant action your character takes toward making progress with their goals.

It could even be when your character meets an important person. Whatever you decide is the third main plot point for your story will be what scene you write here. At this point, there will be a huge chunk of missing scenes before and after, but try to write something to capture the essence of this scene.






Key Scene #4


The next major plot point you can write as a scene is when your character hits the wall, so to speak, and is at their lowest point emotionally, and sometimes physically, as well. Oftentimes, characters are trapped or in some way kept from being able to take action.

When your character is at the brink of despair and doesn’t know how they’ll move forward, that’s the scene you need to write here - even if you don’t know how they’ll get out of it either.


Key Scene #5


The final key scene to help you start writing your novel is the finish line. This is when your character reaches their goal and gets what they want (usually). Even if you have a bit of writer’s block as to how they’ll arrive at such an ending. 

Imagine what your character will think, do, and say when they reach their long-awaited goal. How will they feel? Capture this is the finish line scene, much like a runner crossing the finish line of a race.

Now that you have your five main plot points mapped out - and the key scenes written - it’s time to figure out how your character managed to get from one milemarker to the next.


Which scene will YOU write first? Share in the comments!

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Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Writing vs. Storytelling

Which is more important: writing well or telling a great story? They’re almost equally important, but one is slightly more important than the other. I tell writers all the time that there are only two things you need to get published (traditionally). One, to be able to write well. And two, to be able to tell a great story.




Why Do Readers Want to Read?


First off, ask yourself why readers want to read a book. Typically, it’s either to learn something or to be entertained. And since I teach fiction writing, we’ll go with being entertained. Readers don’t want to just be entertained; they want to be able to seamlessly read a book without the words or the story getting in the way. 

Ever heard the comment “this takes me out of your story”? Yeah, you don’t want that happening. Lots of revisions and a good editor ensure that most published books don’t have scenes and sentences that do that to a reader.

If your goal is to write a book that readers actually want to read, all you need to do is tell a great story and write well. Easy peasy, right?


The Purpose of Good Writing


The purpose of good writing is so a reader can understand what you wrote and either learn from it or be entertained. When you write well, you use good spelling, punctuation, and grammar. You also have good sentence syntax; things make sense and aren’t confusing. 

Writing well includes varying the length of your sentences, having a good flow with thoughtful cause and effect, and structuring what you want to say in such a way that the reader can easily digest it.

Even if you have a great story, but your writing sucks, it won’t get published. If your writing only needs a little help (as opposed to a lot), your story still has a chance… if the story holds up. Editors will work with you, of course, but if your writing sucks, it’s gonna be a big fat PASS.




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The Heart of Great Storytelling


At the heart of every great story includes interesting and relatable characterization, conflict to challenge them to their very core, and a plot full of things that happen for a reason. What happens if you have POOR storytelling skills, but your writing is stellar? That’ll be a pass too.

But here’s some hope for you. If your story and writing are “good enough” and the premise is amazing, an editor may just take you on. I’ll be sharing my 4-quadrant matrix of how storytelling and writing go hand in hand in an upcoming webinar called Get Your Story Straight in May 2021.


I’ve been talking a lot about storytelling these last few weeks: are you good enough to be a writerstory ideas are like seeds, and how to bust through writer’s block, just to name a few. Because my goal is to help you not only learn how to become a better writer but to also help you tell a great story.

I’d love to hear about your story! What is your current WIP (work in progress) about? Click here to share a comment.


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