"All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us." —J. R. R. Tolkien

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Compliments and External forces

So yesterday I took the kids for a bike ride. My 7-year-old son on his own bike, and my 3-year-old daughter on the baby seat on the back of my bike. Riding along, my daughter says to me, "Mommy, you have a big bottom."
"Thanks, Sweetheart," I say. "You have a little bottom."
"Thanks, Mommy."
And, really, I think she did mean it as a compliment.

So in my revision planning process, I've added two new line items to each scene. Yes, I do write up each scene before the first draft, and now again in the revision stage. First draft stage it's mainly a "what happens" kind of thing.
But now as I'm going back and refining it, I've added two new line items:

1) Reason for the scene - There has to be a compelling reason to have this scene in the book. Actually there needs to be more than one compelling reason. Don't they say each scene should do at least two things. So for each scene, make sure it has a reason to exist. We've all heard this before, but when you go through and list them out, it definitely makes you think.

2) External conflict - What external forces can be introduced to complicate the scene? These can be things as simple as a thunderstorm outside when two characters are out for a walk to more interesting forces like crazed seagulls attacking girls sunbathing on the beach and trying to steal their Pringles.

I do want to note I've read books where the external forces are way overdone, and mostly these are adult novels or other books I feel are working hard to increase word count. Every time the MC needs to go to the bathroom, they shouldn't have a fight. Seriously, cut them a little bit of slack every once in a while or the external forces will look too forced.


beth said...

I like how you're revising. I've got a lot of that coming up soon...

When I revise, I tend to look at two things:

1. Voice: Do I have a unique enough voice in each section? Does each character (for me, I struggle particularly with side characters) have a unique personality?

2. Description: I usually put in more dialogue than description, which makes my characters sound like talking heads and doesn't give my reader a good idea of setting. So I try to balance that out in revision.

When I write, I usually have a goal for the chapter as to the reason for the scene; that's pretty much the driving force of the chapter. I don't usually have to worry about that later...but I'd never really put much thought in external conflicts and may have to look at some of my pages with a keener eye in terms of that!

Christine M said...

Your writing tips are so great! Thanks for sharing

keri mikulski :) said...

I'm deep in revisions right now - Thanks for the tips. :)

Patty P said...

Creating a great scene is hard. It really needs to have a point. Trouble is getting to it. Thanks for all your writing tips and your list of goals...you keep me focused!

Vivian said...

It's hard to decide when to cut, and your tips are helpful for that! Thanks!

PJ Hoover said...

Hey Beth. I focus on voice, but generally a few revisions in. After I'm pretty sure the scene will stay in its present form.
I love the whole external conflict thing. It can actually make action tied to the plot line come out of nowhere when I stop and think about it.

Thanks, Chris. That's for all your great input!

Hey Keri, I hope your revisions are going well! Next order I put in to Amazon, I'm getting Screwball! Yay!

You're welcome, Patty! Making the lists of goals really helps me stay focused. We all hear about goal setting, but keeping it fresh in mind is really the key for me.

LOL, Vivian. It's even harder when you know something needs to be cut and you just don't want to. That's when I really force myself to answer the "Why" question. Why is this scene in here? :)

carla said...

I love that story! (cant believe I hadnt read it when I saw you :))


PJ Hoover said...

Yes, Carla, I was wondering why you didn't tell me I had a nice, big bottom :)
We had fun at the zoo! Hope the ears are doing good.

Janet Fox said...

Hey - PJ - I'm really enjoying your book! Picked it up at TLA, and I especially love the opening. Great hook.

Scene-building is hard for me. I tend to write the first draft in a semi-conscious state. I think that's why plotting and pacing are my biggest challenges.

Thanks for your tips!

PJ Hoover said...

Thanks for the compliments on the book, Janet! I'm so happy for you for the 2k9 thing!
And I'm working hard to get over sequelitis hence the writing tips!