Monday, October 31, 2016

Revisiting the Basics: Scene

courtesy google images
"The lack of a scene goal is the number-one reason plots stall. There's nothing for the protagonist to do to drive the plot forward. She doesn't want anything, isn't trying to stop anything, she's just living her day or performing random tasks that aren't leading to anything." --Janice Hardy, featured at

Well, it's that time again--National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, in which participants work to write a novel in the month of November to the tune of 50,000 words. While I'm not that ambitious this year, I do see it as an incentive to get back to a WIP that's been languishing for awhile. I'm determined to add word count this month as a personal tip of the hat to this month's challenge. We'll see how it goes!

As part of the process, I'm brushing up on novel-writing basics, starting with thoughts on scene:

1. "Scenes are the stepping stones and the chapter is the river, with the opposing shores being two different phases of your plot." --Deborah Halverson, Dear Editor

2. "Each scene has a structure, beginning, middle, end. This implies that something is happening." --Darcy Pattison, Scene 2: Elements of a Scene (Darcy ran an awesome 30-day series on scene a few years back. You can catch the entire series here.)

3. "Scenes are small time capsules. They are potent because they contain more than is openly revealed." --Mary Carroll Moore, "How Chapters Are Built"

4. "The shape of an effective scene is this: First, it orients us in time and place...(it) introduces a question we want answered... (it) finishes on some sort of slightly rising note: another question or a heightened emotion or a new complication or a change of situation--something to keep us reading into the next scene."--Nancy Kress, science fiction and fantasy author

5. "Think of a memorable scene as an inner tube designed to keep the larger work afloat." --Raymond Obstfeld, Novelist's Essential Guide to Crafting Scene

6. "Understand scene and you begin to understand the essence of plot." --Martha Alderson, Blockbuster Plots

Time to rev up the motors and get this story moving, starting with the scene I got bogged down on in the first place. It will take more than luck; it will require getting serious. Don't want to be like the protagonist described above by Ms. Hardy--or the lady in the picture sitting on the sidelines...

Where are you in your writing--moving at a fast clip or in a stall? Will NaNoWriMo give you an incentive to move forward? What are some of your best tips for writing scenes?

p.s. Want some great links for National Novel Writing Month? Check out these links:
Tips for Surviving the Agony and Ecstasy of NaNoWriMo, by Jenny Hansen
4 Visual Tricks for Writers Who Want to Rock NaNoWriMo, by Robin Rivera
15 Story Beats to Keep Your NaNoWriMo Novel on Track, by Heather Jackson
How Word Sprints Will Help You Win NaNoWriMo This Year,



  1. Would love to do NaNoWriMo, but there's no way. November is near the end of my semester, and I'll have tons of grading to do. Then there's that little thing called Thanksgiving... And to be honest, I don't write like that. I've been urged to "give something new a try" to shake myself out of my comfort zone. But the one time I did that, I ended up with a writer's block that lasted for months. I love my comfort zone, and I'm sticking with it. :-)

    I have huge respect for "setting the scene." Last week I decided I needed to insert an extra chapter into the middle of my current WIP. I already know what I want my main character to do, so that won't take long to write. What's taking my time is the setting. It has to be right because that's the frame for her actions.

    Your post is right on!

    1. Peggy, based on what I know about your writing, I'd say stick with that comfort zone, it's working! For me, I need a little kick to get me moving again. I've been doing lots of writing, just not on the WIP. So since April's A-Z challenge got me moving in poetry, so I hope the challenge of my version of NaNoWriMo will help me make progress on it. And then again, my sister-in-law is hosting Thanksgiving, so I should make use of that bonus of time, right? Thanks for coming by. I'll keep you posted about my progress :-)

  2. Thanks for sharing these. I've been taking time off from writing for about a month, but now I want to get back into my next book, so these are a treasure trove of tips that I hope will jump start me. I don't do NaNo; it's too daunting. But reading about it on so many blogs is jogging me to get to work on something and stop dawdling. :-)

    1. Elizabeth, I'm guessing you've been away from writing because of travel, but also guessing travel sparks writing ideas :-) Glad you found the tips helpful. Best of luck as you get back to your writing!

  3. Cheering you on to your goals! Thanks for sharing the links and inspiration. Have a great weekend! :)

    1. Thanks back to you, Karen--appreciate your encouragement :-) Hope you have a great weekend, too!