Tag Archives: Scene and Sequel

12.40: Structuring a Novel

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard

What makes something a novel, rather than just a serialized collection of stuff that happens? How do we use structure to turn collections of stuff into something more cohesive? What tools do we use to outline, map, and/or plan our novel writing?

Reference Note: “Scene and sequel” comes to us from Dwight Swain’s Techniques of the Selling Writerfirst published in 1965 (52 years ago.)

Credits: this episode was recorded in Cosmere House Studios by Dan Dan the Audioman Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson

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Take a film or TV program, which you like, and which was NOT based on a book, and plot the novel that it would have been had it been a novel before being on screen.

Memory of Water by Emmi Itäranta

Writing Excuses 10.34: Q&A on Pacing

We wrap up this month’s discussion of pacing with a Q&A. Here are the questions we pulled out of the virtual hat (read: Twitter) for answering during the episode:

  • What are some early indications of a pacing problem?
  • How do you chart pacing so that it remains even?
  • Can you control pacing using scene/sequel format?
  • How do you handle character progression during travel without making it choppy?
  • It feels like new authors are required to deliver breakneck pacing. Is this true?
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Plot twists are coming next month. This exercise is called “hard left.” Take a scene that is moving forward at a breakneck pace. Throw a twist at them, and don’t break scene. Force the pacing to continue in the new direction.

Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea, by Barbara Demick, narrated by Karen White

Writing Excuses 10.32: How Do I Control the Speed of the Story?

As we said last week, we’re talking about pacing, and we’ve divided the concept into two parts. Last week we covered “sense of progress.” This week we’re talking about the passage of time. We discuss the tools we use, some of which are very mechanical (scene breaks, chapter breaks) and some of which are quite intricate, and require finesse to get right.

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Take something you’ve already written (a chapter with a few scenes would be perfect.) Change scene breaks to through-scenes. Then try moving the scene breaks around. See what happens to the pace of the story.

Seveneves: A Novel, by Neal Stephenson, narrated by Mary Robinette Kowal and Will Damron

Writing Excuses 10.25: What Makes a Scene?

What defines a scene? How do we, as writers, structure things using scenes? When does a scene begin, when does it end, and when has it gone on too long?

We each do this a little differently, and obviously the definitions and processes will vary widely across mediums. In this episode we talk about how we do this, and we make reference to Scene/Sequel format, the MICE quotient, and pacing.

 

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Look at the next few scenes you need to write, and identify their plot function, identify what your main character’s goal is. Now consider where the starting and stopping points can be placed to best serve those elements.

The Devil’s Only Friend, by Dan Wells, narrated by Kirby Heyborne

This will be our Project-in-Depth book in August, so dive in now!

Writing Excuses 9.17: Microcasting

Eric James Stone joins Brandon, Mary, and Howard to answer questions from our listeners. Here are the questions:

  • Should you submit your prologue along with the first chapters?
  • What do you do when you’ve got some professional sales under your belt, but can’t seem to get more?
  • How do you manage scene/sequel format in a multi-POV novel?
  • Is passive voice really that bad? How do you tell if you’re using it too much?
  • What is the threshold for deus ex machina?
  • How do you maximize the emotional impact of a character death?
  • If you’re a discovery writer, how do you go about becoming an outliner?
  • When someone asks what you do for a living, how do you answer them?
  • How do you get out of the beat-by-beat, this-then-that blocking of action?

Here is the Grammar Girl episode we mentioned.

 

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Write your character doing two things at once, both of which are plot-specific.

Writing Excuses 8.27: Chapter Breakdowns

What determines our chapter breaks? How do we handle POV shifts, scene-sequel balance, and other considerations when we’re carving our stories into chapters?

Dan starts with a discussion of the POV considerations in Fragments and in Ruins (from the Partials series,) and Brandon contrasts that with some of the epic fantasy methods. We argue the respective merits and pitfalls of rapid switching and large blocks, and then we talk about how the chapters take shape during our outlines and initial drafts.

Episode Trivia: This was the first episode we recorded at the Out of Excuses Workshop and Retreat, and was the first time in a year that the four of us had been together to record. So rusty!

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Outline a two-character plot arc, and then break it into chapters. Experiment with big blocks and little blocks of POV in this chapter-chopped outline, and consider how this will affect the arc.

Promise of Blood, by Brian McClellan, narrated by Christian Rodska