So you’ve started writing your book. Congratulations! You’re on your way to becoming a New York Times Bestseller… except there’s a problem. The scenes you’re writing are boring, disjointed, and don’t affect the overall storyline of your book. Now your bestseller is looking more like one of those cheesy 99 cent books on Amazon with a generic cover that no one reads because they’d rather read a James Patterson book.
You’ve reached rock bottom at this point so take a few minutes and read this column. Maybe you’ll glean something from it and sharpen those bad scenes of yours.
Have a point to your scenes. Every scene written in a book needs to have a purpose of its own. Sure, it has to affect the overall storyline. That’s going to be discussed next. Whether it’s a minor arc or a major one, all scenes should accomplish something by the end of it. If your main character is trying to brew a pot of coffee, but has no coffee filters. That’s a scene. The character could try using paper towels to hold the grounds, but then decides to go to the store to buy some. The scene would then become his/her struggle to find the right tools to brew that coffee.
You might be thinking “Jim, that’s great, but how does that fit into the main story?” Well, that really depends on what type of story you’re writing. Look at Stephen King’s short story The Mist. The main character and his son does to the store to buy supplies after their house is ravaged by a storm. By going to the store, they’re stuck in it when the mist engulfs the town. By having that scene where the character decides that he needs to that, it gets him to the store, where 90 percent of the story takes place.
The point I’m trying to get across is that every scene needs to fit into your overall plot. If it’s not part of the overall plot, then delete it or rework it into something that fits. A good story is like a completed puzzle. You wouldn’t try and force a puzzle piece into a spot where it doesn’t fit and you wouldn’t just finish a puzzle with a few pieces missing.
Another tip to writing a good scene is to make it the star of the novel as long as the reader is reading it. You want each scene to be something that the reader doesn’t want to be over. Sometimes I’ll be reading a scene that’s so exciting and has amazing dialogue and then it switches to a scene that’s all filler information in order to explain why this character can do all these amazing things and blah blah blah. My eyes gloss over at that point and my hand turns the pages until it gets to a new scene.
When you’re writing a scene, don’t fill it with crazy amounts of information that cause your reader to go into a literary coma. Figure out what you really need and get that point across to the reader. Cut the fat. When you’re going through your second or third draft, put your scenes on a diet plan that integrates both weight loss and exercise. Cut the fat and put more activity in your scenes.
Hmm, I sort of like that. I’ll call that the Jimmy Master literary weight loss diet plan. “Put your scene on Jimmy!”
Those are just a few tips to help craft the perfect scene. Hopefully it helps turn your book into a bestseller. Keep calm and write on my fellow wordslingers!