Writing Scenes

Image by Pterjan on Flickr reused under Creative Commons (Thanks!)

Image by Pterjan on Flickr reused under Creative Commons (Thanks!)

I found it hugely useful this week to read Jody Hedlund’s blog post on writing scenes. I’m at the stage where I have a draft which is not yet a first draft but is inching towards that status. I try to write a first version and not worry about it being imperfect but this then means stage two of redrafting, rejigging and rewriting. I’m trying to assess what my work in progress scene by scene so, as well as working on the details of the writing, I’m also taking a step back and looking at the scene as a whole. The ultimate goal is to have each one as an action-packed emotionally-charged, entertaining brick of fun that builds up a whole novel. Not asking too much then….

I have some pointers of my own that I would add to Jody’s list:
  • Is it fun and funny and moving? This is appropriate for my current WIP but will change depending on genre.
  • Does it read like writing? I know when my prose sinks, sloppy sentences, incomplete rhythm…all these need to be weeded out.
  • Where is the emotional impact of the scene? I try to make sure it is well signposted and written for maximum effect. Details of setting or character can contribute unobtrusively too.
  • Can I show not tell? Check for patches of telling and check there isn’t a better way.
  • Do my characters make the most of their time centre stage? What can I add to reveal more depth in passing? Deepen relationships?
  • Are there any symbols? I loved the section in this book about symbols (or “sacred objects” as they call them) that recur through a novel. So it’s worth checking they are being presented in a meaningful – although possibly unobtrusive) way in any scene where they occur.
I work in a combination of digital and paper scribbles but for this I found it handy to have a sheet to hand for each scene. I may spend some time reading and making notes before I go back and start rewriting.
If anyone else has any tips to share for this stage of writing I’d be very glad to hear them! It’s not quite editing and it’s not building from scratch…just all part of the polishing process.

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