#FixYourNovel #2: Scene Outline

From the beginning in June of 2010, this blog has generally been about my journey as a writer. It hasn’t been a smooth ride so far, and some days the destination doesn’t appear any closer than when I began.

This reminds me of an experience my sister and I had on a trip to the western part of the United States a few years ago. We saw our first butte. It didn’t look more than a mile or two away, so we turned off onto a dirt road that looked like it would take us to the butte. We don’t have buttes in North Carolina, so we wanted to see one up close.

Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash

After driving on this straight, flat road for a half hour or so, the butte didn’t look any closer than it had when we turned off the main highway. We gave up on reaching the butte and turned around.

As for the manuscript for my Doubloon novel, I haven’t given up and I haven’t turned around. I don’t think I could, even if I wanted to. I’m still learning about the work that has to be done after the rough draft is finished.

Scene Outlines

In my mind I thought I could evaluate every scene in my novel manuscript of more than 90,000 words by mid-July and be ready to send a detailed scene outline to a professional editor for a critique. In the meantime, I discovered a scene outline template on C.S. Lakin’s website.

(Ms. Lakin’s February 1, 2016 blog post, “Using a Scene Template to Craft Perfect Scenes” can be found at https://www.livewritethrive.com/2016/02/01/using-a-scene-template-to-craft-perfect-scenes/#more-7387, in case you’re interested in looking at her template. Click on “Resources” and scroll down to the clickable list of free writing resources she offers.)

I wrote an outline before writing the rough draft of the The Doubloon. After finishing the rough draft, I modified my outline into a scene outline for reference purposes. Then, I found Ms. Lakin’s template. It includes details and questions I hadn’t thought about being part of a scene outline.

Expanding my outline based on Ms. Lakin’s template has been a beneficial process because it makes me state how each scene drives the plot forward, what background details are revealed, and how the point-of-view character grows or changes. It might even tell me that one or more scenes aren’t necessary.

Novel readers won’t stand for boredom.

With today’s blog post topic in mind, I wanted to see what other writing experts had to say. My basic takeaway from K.M. Weiland’s June 17, 2019 blog post, https://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/how-to-write-interesting-scenes/ was that every scene needs to hold the reader’s attention.

Ms. Weiland goes on to list five things every scene should contain. She wrote, “Basically, the art of writing interesting scenes is the art of preventing reader boredom.”

Douglas W. T. Smith is an Australian fantasy author. In his blog post on May 29, 2019, “How To Bring Life And Fluency to Each Scene In Your Novel” (https://dwtsmith.wordpress.com/2019/05/29/how-to-bring-life-and-fluency-to-each-scene-in-your-novel/)  he gave four important tips for writing scenes.

My favorite takeaway from Mr. Smith’s blog post was “Each scene should stand alone, make it dazzling enough to inform your reader of the necessary plot information, exciting enough to create interest and interesting enough to cause the reader to keep going.”

I will continue to work on my scene outline. As a hope-to-be debut novelist with my The Doubloon manuscript, I think it’s a good idea for me to hire a professional editor to evaluate my scene outline. I’ll let you know when that happens.

In case you missed #FixYourNovel #1:  Read it Aloud

Here’s the link to my May 24, 2019 blog post:  https://janetswritingblog.com/2019/05/27/fixyournovel-1-read-it-aloud/.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m still pulled between several books and not able to finish any of them.

If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time.

Thank you for reading my blog. You could have spent the last few minutes doing something else, but you chose to read my blog.

Let’s continue the conversation

What are the “buttes” in your life – those things you want to accomplish that seem to always be out of reach?

Janet

#FixYourNovel #1: Read it Aloud

In my blog last Monday, https://janetswritingblog.com/2019/05/20/the-hard-work-lies-ahead-what-did-i-mean-by-that/, I said this:  “Do I have the audacity to write about how a writer goes about “fixing” his or her novel? Only time will tell.” I’m learning as I go, so maybe you and I can learn together.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Today let’s grapple with “fixing” the rough draft of your novel by reading the entire novel aloud to yourself to make sure it flows naturally, makes sense, has the right amount of backstory, doesn’t have information dumps, and doesn’t have plot holes.

I know, many of you bailed out on that last sentence. If you’re still with me, though, I thank you. If you aren’t interested in today’s topic, just scroll down to see what I’ve been doing, what I’m reading, and what my blog has in store for you next week.

Purposes of reading aloud to yourself

Among other things, the purposes of reading the rough draft aloud to yourself are to:

            * See if the story flows naturally;

            * Make sure there’s the right amount of backstory;

            * See if the pacing is good;

            * Make sure the story makes sense;

            * Make sure events are in proper order;

            * Make sure there are no information dumps;

            * Catch obvious typographical errors; and

            * Look for plot holes.  

Some things I found on my read-through

I’m writing what I hope will be my first historical novel. The working title is The Doubloon. I recently typed “The End” at the end of the rough draft, let it rest a couple of weeks, and then read through it out loud last week. “Out Loud” is very important.

One thing that came to light in my read-through was that some of the scenes weren’t in the best order.

Once the location of a scene is changed – especially if you move it to a point later in your book – you must carefully review the scenes between its original location and its new location to make sure there are no references to what happens or is said in that moved scene in the in-between scenes.

For example, if you reveal a clue in the scene you moved from the end of the first chapter to the beginning of the third chapter, you must make sure you don’t refer to anything in that scene in the second chapter.

There were places where sentences weren’t in the best order. You might not catch those instances if you don’t read your rough draft out loud.

There were instances where a word didn’t do the sentence justice. Sometimes a sentence needed a stronger verb or more accurate adjective. If you can’t think of a better substitute immediately, just highlight it in red and keep going.

I discovered cases where I had not told the reader something they needed to know in order for a scene to make sense. As the author, I knew the background, but I had failed to give the reader enough information.

A number of scenes take place in the meeting house. In my head, I knew exactly what the log meeting house looked like inside, but I had not described it well. That task was added to that running list I mentioned above.

Photo by Kaitlyn Baker on Unsplash

I was surprised to find some typos, which means I’m too confident in my typing skills. There were several cases where I’d typed the wrong word, for instance, “where” when I meant “when” and “of” when I meant “in.” (What was that about?) The spell-check function on your computer won’t catch these errors.

How to deal with problems you find

In some of these cases, I edited the rough draft. In some cases, I highlighted the word, phrase, or sentence so I can go back later and take time to make corrections or changes. I started a running list of things I need to research or be sure to check on later. I only made changes that could easily be done without taking much time. I didn’t want to get distracted from the read-through to the point I got bogged down in editing.

Nice surprise in the read-through

It was a pleasant surprise to find some humor in the manuscript. I wrote all 85,000 words, so how could I forget? Maybe you can keep up with such things, but I obviously did not. I was really pleased with some of the humor and the liveliness of some of the dialogue.

Based on my meager experience, I would say this read-through of your novel’s rough draft should be fun. It certainly was for me. I enjoyed getting reacquainted with some of the characters’ personalities and events in the book.

In addition to the humor in this novel that deals with several serious issues, I hope my readers will try throughout the novel to figure out “who dunnit.”

One of the most important things I learned

One of the most important things I learned through this rough draft rewrite and read-through is how to get words on the page and move on. For years I was guilty of trying to write perfectly the first time. If I had something I needed to research or go back to look for in my research notes, I would stop right then and chase after the answer.

I’ve finally learned to throw in a red question mark or type my question in read red, and keep writing. This was a hard lesson for me to learn. I hope you have learned that or will learn it faster than I did. It makes a huge difference in how quickly your writing can move along.

#FixYourNovel

Look for the second installment in my #FixYourNovel blog series in mid-July:  Scene Outline Critique will probably be the topic.

Since my last blog post

We had house guests and also tried to get as much yardwork done as possible before the heatwave started on Saturday with 95 degrees.

Until my next blog post

I hope you’re reading a good book. I’m reading The First Conspiracy:  The Secret Plot to Kill George Washington, by Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch. Next Monday’s blog post will be about the books I’ve read in May.

If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time and your projects are moving right along.

Thank you for reading my blog. You could have spent the last few minutes doing something else, but you chose to read my blog.

Let’s continue the conversation

What are you reading?

Janet

“The hard work lies ahead.” What did I mean by that?

In my May 6, 2019 blog post, https://janetswritingblog.com/2019/05/06/the-only-book-i-read-in-april-2019/, I announced the completion of the first rough draft of my rewrite of The Doubloon. Then I made the following statement:  “The hard work lies ahead.” What did I mean by that?

I meant it was time to take all the steps it takes to get a novel published. There are many additional steps. I am, no doubt, blissfully unaware of some of them. Today I’ve listed many of the individual things that need to be done when polishing a novel manuscript. I’m sharing it here in case it will help someone else who is just starting out.

Steps to polish a novel manuscript

Most of the items I list below apply no matter what genre your novel is, but several of them are specific to writing historical fiction. Photo by Kaitlyn Baker on Unsplash

Photo by Kaitlyn Baker on Unsplash

I don’t have all the answers. In fact, I have more questions than answers, but I’m learning every step of the way.

Things I’ve done since last Monday’s blog post include the following:

  • Moved the inciting event from page 45 to page 28 and made necessary scene adjustments due to that change in timing;
  • Changed several character’s surnames so they won’t be mistaken for persons who lived in The Waxhaws, the Rocky River Settlement, and Salisbury in the 1760s;

 What’s left to do? Plenty! I need to:

  • Read entire manuscript aloud to make sure it flows naturally, makes sense, has the right amount of backstory, doesn’t have information dumps, and doesn’t have plot holes;
  • Reading or Listening? With what I recently learned about the difference in reading a book and listening to a book, I need to look at the hook and scene and chapter beginnings to see if they work well for the book listener; (See my May 13, 2019 blog post: https://janetswritingblog.com/2019/05/13/how-listening-to-a-book-and-reading-a-book-differ/.)
  • Characterization: Are the characters distinguishable, what are their motives, and are their arcs in the right places?
  •  Check Point-of-View in every scene;
  •  Tweak Scene Plot Outline;
  • Consider hiring a Scene Outline Critiquer;
  • Take professional editor’s recommendation into consideration and make those changes;
  • Authentic Details: Add details where needed to make sure the reader will feel like they are in The Waxhaws, the Rocky River Settlement, and Salisbury in 1769-1770;
Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash
  • Backstory:  Have I included just enough, too little, or too much?
  • Dialogue:  Have I used words not in usage in 1769?
  • Narrative and Dialogue: Have I used any words too often?
  • Fine tune every sentence, paragraph, scene, and chapter, checking for things like cause and effect, strong verbs; use of passive voice; character act first, then speak; and the overuse of adverbs;
  • Check spelling;
  • Check all punctuation — the most difficult task for me; and
  • Read through the novel aloud again. Have I told a good story?

After I do everything I can

 After I do everything I can do to make the manuscript the best it can be, there is still hard work to be done. I’ll list some of those in a blog post seven or eight months from now. I’ll know more from experience by then.

Meanwhile

I need to continue to build my writer’s platform. That’s one thing this blog is doing for me. Along the way, I hope my blog readers will discern the kind of writer I am.

The road to publication

It is daunting road that lies ahead and there will probably be some potholes and detours along the way. I’ve worked on this historical novel manuscript for something like 15 years. I’ve lost track of time and can’t say with certainty when I started working on it.

Until recently, I referred to it as The Spanish Coin. In an effort to give it a two-word title, I changed the working title to The Doubloon. If I’m fortunate to get it published by a publisher, as opposed to myself, I will lose control of the title. I’m trying not to get too attached to either working title.

#FixYourNovel

In the coming months I plan to address these steps writers should take as they work their way through the novel writing and traditional novel publishing process. From time-to-time, I will blog about the steps I listed above in blog posts titled “FixYourNovel #_,” and that’s “#” in the pre-Twitter numeric.

Look for the first installment in my “#FixYourNovel” blog series next Monday:  Read entire novel manuscript aloud.

Do I have the audacity to write about how a writer goes about “fixing” his or her novel? Only time will tell.

Photo by Hello I’m Nik on Unsplash

Perhaps I can help someone out there who is also writing a debut novel, and some of the process might be of interest to those of you who like to read fiction. If my blog readers start dropping like flies, I’ll know you’re not interested.

Until my next blog post

I’ll read my manuscript out loud and see what it sounds like from start to finish.

Let’s continue the conversation

When you read a blog written in first person point-of-view, do you feel like you’re being talked “at” or not? Do you feel more included when you read a blog written in second person? Does it depend on the topic? Have you ever thought about it?

Janet