I created a flow chart to diagnose bad scenes. The chart will help you to identify the problems with your scenes and provide possible solutions. This is perfect for when you know something is wrong with a scene in your novel but you’re not sure exactly what’s going wrong or how to fix it.
Download the Flow Chart by right clicking and choosing “Save image as…”
01:23 Does the scene move the plot forward?
02:37 Does the reader need to see the scene happen?
04:18 Is there a conflict?
05:44 Is it obvious to the reader that the scene pushes the plot forward?
06:56 Does the character experience an emotional shift?
08:16 Is the scene still not working?
10:57 Does the scene contain vital information?
11:35 Do you like and want to keep the scene?
12:23 Does the part you like require an entire scene?
13:53 Does the information require an entire scene?
15:27 Is it possible to move the information to another scene?
Developmental or big picture editing can be very challenging. In this video I go over a technique that works well for many writers and that can help you gain perspective and start to develop a plan for revisions.
[00:43] Three main challenges for writers when it comes to big picture (developmental) editing:
1. Getting distracted by smaller elements or details.
2. Getting overwhelmed with how much there is to do.
3. Losing perspective or not being able to see the big picture.
[03:44] Editing Strategy: Make three columns (love, hate, indifferent) and categorize all of the major elements of your novel into these categories based on how you feel about them.
[05:19] Major Elements to Include:
• Major plot points (up to ten)
• Major characters
• Side characters (that are in at least two or three scenes)
• Character arc
• Significant concepts
• Significant objects
[06:53] Add a “lost” column
Identify the things you really wanted to include in your novel but that didn’t make it into this draft for whatever reason.
[08:07] What does this exercise tell you?
1. It identifies the things you love and want to keep.
2. It tells you what you would need to change to love your novel.
3. It will show you areas where you can improve as a writer.
4. It will show you where you can make obvious cuts.
5. It will reveal placeholder elements that need to be replaced.
6. It will show you where you lost your vision.
[12:45] Identify the core of your novel
Why did you want to write this story? What matters to you most? What do you most want to convey?
[13:48] Look for incompatible elements
Go through the lists you’ve created and search for things that are incompatible with your vision or that contradict the things you love and get rid of them.
[18:00] Indicate “cut,” “strengthen,” and “replace” for each item in your “Hate” and “Indifferent” columns
Go through and figure out what you definitely want to cut, what needs to be strengthened, and what needs to be replaced. Use parentheses (or whatever method works for you) to indicate what type of change needs to be made or the reason you want to make that change (for example: Strengthen: because it’s incompatible with my vision).
[20:01] Ask yourself what would need to happen for you to move each item to the “love” category
This can help you to identify the underlying problems and can assist if you get stuck and aren’t able to figure out how to improve an element of the novel.
[22:36] Next Steps
I recommend that from here, you use a scene list or outline to assist you in the editing process. This can save time and make your editing more efficient.
Problems caused by a lack of connection to a character:
Their voice isn’t distinct. It always sounds different or never sounds truly authentic to the character.
The character doesn’t have anything to do in scenes or gets “lost” in scenes/conversations.
The character is unemotional, melodramatic, or expresses emotions arbitrarily or inconsistently.
You don’t enjoy writing them.
A common reason for a lack of connection is under development in a few key areas of characterization:
Their motivation – The emotional driving force behind their goal. This may be the desire to shift from one “state” to another: from powerless to powerful, from lonely to loved, etc.
Their false belief – Something the character believes about themselves, other people, or the world that is harmful. For example, “the only way to be powerful is to put yourself above others.” This is what changes to create the character arc (if an arc is present in the story).
Their key traits – Positive traits built from the motivation and negative traits built from the false belief. These are tangible/identifiable traits that impact their actions and interactions with others. In other words, the outward manifestations of their motivation and false belief.
Solutions to try:
Write out the motivation, false belief, and key traits. Start with the information you know and then brainstorm or extrapolate what you don’t know.
Write out two key emotional scenes – the scene of backstory that created their false belief and the scene within the novel that has the highest level of emotion associated with the false belief or motivation.
Look at photographs that emotionally resonate with you to help establish a connection to the character, then redo the previous two exercises.
Make the character more similar to you by giving them a false belief or motivation that you find easier to relate to.
Loving a character too much can cause issues with clarity in your novel due to a lack of distance between yourself and the character. In this video I go over the signs that you have a strong attachment to your character and writing tips and tricks that you can try right now to improve your novel and overcome this potential issue.
How can you tell if you are too close to a character in your novel:
1. You just know you love them and can’t easily distance yourself.
2. Beta readers can’t connect to, don’t like, or don’t understand your character.
3. You feel like something is missing from scenes or emotions aren’t hitting the way you want them to.
4. You over justify their flaws by providing too much backstory or explanations for “bad” behaviors/actions.
Solutions/activities to try:
1. Ask beta readers specific but non-leading questions about their impressions of the character.
2. Make sure you’re conveying the emotional beats of the scene (motivation behind goal, feeling about obstacle, feeling/reasoning behind their response to obstacle).
3. Give the character a trait, flaw, motivation, or belief you don’t relate to.
4. Fall in love with a different/new character to help create some distance.
Another Novel Boot Camp comes to a close! Thanks so much for everyone who participated, donated, shared my videos, and left comments of support and enthusiasm. I hope you feel like you walked away a stronger writer.
I did my best to get through as many novel openings as possible (with my sanity still intact). If your novel opening didn’t receive a critique, I’m sincerely sorry. I will do my best to post another set of critiques in the near future. Continue reading →
Query letters can be daunting! Today I’m going to break the query down into three sections to create an easy template/format you can use to write your own query. I’m also going to demonstrate how this template plays out in successful query letters.
Today I’m going to walk you through my process for quickly plotting a novel. I have a few other videos about plotting, but in this video I wanted to explain how to reason your way to a plot outline based on what you already know about your idea.