Writing on the Run
Deep in the throes of revision while having to go on a recent short trip, I had to face that writing time would be hit or miss; normally squeezed in whenever there's a free moment. To really dig in, though, I wanted to take more than could possibly fit in my catch-all bag: a dictionary, my thesaurus, reference books, as-of-yet unread writing books, etc., etc. Knowing this was impossible, I took a break to think about what I could realistically get accomplished on the trip, sat back and read an article, "4 Tips for Writing Scenes," by Ingrid Sundberg, http://ingridsnotes.wordpress.com/2014/07/01/4-tips-for-writing-great-scenes/.
Sundberg's article changed everything. Maybe I couldn't have all my tools, but I was at a place in my story where a preliminary check would be helpful. After a cursory look at my WIP with Sundberg's advice in mind, I made a startling discovery. The drama and emotion I thought I'd poured into my draft--heart, gut, and soul--didn't have the impact I'd envisioned. An editor might even call my scenes downright flimsy! I chose three areas that Sundberg suggested need to be present in each scene and decided not to wait until the end of the entire draft to consider them, but to review them early in the draft and see what would happen.
Three Scene Booster Musts
I backtracked to Chapter One and evaluated each scene according to Three Scene Boosters suggested in Sundberg's post. In each scene, I isolated these three areas:
- Significant Emotional Change: Does your character go through some sort of emotional change?
Revised emotional change: I needed to show a starker contrast between my character's boredom and fear.
- Dramatic Action: What action does your character take to get out of the bind she finds herself in?
Revised dramatic action: As the car picks up speed, I needed to show how frightened she is more clearly, which was to show how helpless she feels.
- Scene Summary: What is the main action in the scene? At the end of the scene go back and look at your character's main action(s).
- What is your character's main emotion(s)? Fearing for her life.
Just think, if another short trip comes along I won't have to take so many writing tools in my backpack. All I'll need is a pencil, eraser, colored pen, post-its, and extra paper. Oh, and a book to read in my spare time!
See if this plan works for you: In coming months more revision highlights will be explored to help narrow down important areas in your manuscript, one at a time.
Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, recently completed Joyce Sweeney's online fiction course. She has published over 40 articles for children and adults, six short stories for children, and is currently developing several works for children. Follow Linda on Facebook.