A writer asked, "I can't fill in the days. I don't want to fill them in with things of no importance -- but I feel silly jumping around all the time, from morning and suddenly it's nighttime. I'm missing something...what is it?"
Ah, transitions. Yes, they can be tricky.
I have no idea who first said it, but I've often heard it quoted that "fiction is life without all the boring parts." And without transitions, you're just writing a diary of events. I mean, the real-time concept worked great for 24 ... but that's TV. And an exception.
No reader wants to read every little thing that happens, so transitions are necessary. Yet you don't want to start each scene with, "5 hours later" or "The following week."
The first thing I'd suggest is pick up a book and check out how the author did this. Writing good transitions is one of those things you can get the hang of from reading and paying attention.
What you'll notice is that new scenes have hooks to them. Just like in your first chapter where you're looking for ways to hook your reader into your story, you also look for ways to hook your reader into each new scene.
I grabbed Me, Just Different off my shelf to pull some examples because transitions were something I had trouble with when I wrote the manuscript and my editor was a real sweetheart and worked me through it.
So here's a scene where I specified the time in my opening sentence:
That night, as Mom passed me the moo shoo pork, she said, "I met someone you know at the women's brunch."
The time stamp is in there, but it doesn't slow down the story so we can get on with the real issue of figuring out who Skylar's mom met.
Here's another one:
The banner's announcing "Fall Ball is September 20th!" put Lisa in a funk the moment we got to school.
It's a way to sneak in the date and give some context. That means when Fall Ball happens several chapters later, the reader already knows when it is. Unless the writer isn't paying attention and later has Fall Ball happening post-Halloween. Ahem. Yes, I adore my editor.
Here are some others randomly pulled from Me, Just Different:
A little after 1:30, I heard Abbie sneak up the stairs.
"You weren't at church this morning," Connor said when I answered my phone.
I didn't return home until a few hours later, when I could be sure the screaming had stopped.
Something that works well is bringing us into the scene, then backing up a bit for context. Like:
"You sure I can't talk you into ice skating?" Eli asked as he directed his car down my street.
I'd been resting in the reclined passenger's chair. I opened my eyes and offered a sleepy smile. "I'm afraid lunch, two movies, and ice cream are all I have energy for today."
Nothing noteworthy happened during the lunch, two movies, and ice cream so they don't deserve their own scene ... but the reader does need to know how Skylar spent her afternoon.
Sometimes it doesn't really matter to the reader. Sometimes they have plenty of context from the previous scene and can tell the new scene is taking place directly after or a little later or whatever. Like if there's a scene where a girl breaks up with her boyfriend and the following scene is her sitting around gorging on ice cream with her girlfriends, you don't need to start us off with "Two hours later," or anything.
Bad transitions slow down a story. Good transitions are invisible.
One last thing today. Roseanna White, who regularly judges the writing prompt contests,
made her first sale to a big pub house a couple weeks ago. Love Finds You in Annapolis, Maryland will release from Summerside Press at the end of the year. I'm super excited for her! And in celebration of her 500th blog post, she's giving away a copy of either of her biblical fiction novels, A Stray Drop of Blood or Jewel of Persia. You can go here to check out details.