In On Writing, Stephen King talks about the first draft being about "the trees," versus the forest, which is what you deal with in the second draft.
Forests are made up of different types and sizes of trees. Some are small. And some are.... Well, not.
And just like forests are made up of all different sizes and shapes of trees, so your manuscript will be made up of all different types of scenes. Some scenes will be 500 words. Some will 2,500. There's no reason to make them uniform in size, there's only a need to make them right. To make them the right scene for that place in the manuscript.
So how do you do that?
For starters, the way you designate scenes in manuscripts is with a # sign. No need to get fancy with what you use for scene breaks. Your publisher is just going to replace it with their art (In the Skylar Hoyt series, Revell used a hibiscus for the scene breaks, which made me super happy) so make it easy on them and use the # sign.
So it'll look like this:
This will all be here when I get back, I remind myself. The house, my friends, my date with Evan. It’s just six weeks of helping out, and then I come back to my real life.#As I select skirts and tops from my closet, Mom follows me around the room, reading from a typed list she apparently made last night of things to tell me.
We talked not long ago about transitioning time in manuscripts. One of the ways you designate a time change or a change in what character is talking (POV) is with a scene change.
Every scene should have a goal, a point. I read lots of manuscripts from beginning writers where scenes wander all over the place or where a scene appears to have been tossed in because they felt like it had been too long since we'd heard from this particular character. This is sloppy, lazy writing.
If you're a seat of the pants writer, it's fine if you start writing a scene not being 100% sure about where it's going. But make sure whatever you wind up writing advances the plot or opens up a deeper understanding in your main character. Every scene should have forward motion.
As I write scenes - especially if I get stuck - I ask myself a couple questions. Why are my characters here? What have they come to achieve? What will they have learned by the end of this scene?
Asking these questions is what helps me stir up conflict. If I know what my main character has entered the scene for, then I can devise ways to keep her from getting it. I can put characters in her path who want the opposite thing from the scene, who are going to get in her way.
We'll continue this discussion on Wednesday.
Now, don't forget to turn in your prompts to me by 11:59 tonight. If you're not sure what I'm talking about, click here for details. Also, tomorrow is Shellie Neumeier's last day with us, so click here to read up on Shellie's process for writing a novel and get entered to win a copy of her debut novel Driven.