Thursday, August 12, 2010

Next Scene, Anyone?

I've been talking off an on about how much I'm enjoying writing this new manuscript.

Preparation met creativity with this one.

I was attending a writer's conference late last year, and that strange combination of boredom and antsiness crawled under my skin. Know the one? I left the session I was attending, and wrote the gist of the idea by hand in my moleskine notebook in a quiet corner of the otherwise frantic main floor of the hotel. It was both calming and exciting. An altogether different combination that I loved.

It felt like destiny. Except that I had another manuscript I needed to finish. So, this one, a romantic suspense (my first) with some dogs as prime players (my heart) had to be shelved (until a couple of months ago).

I made myself pull the pieces together, because this one's a bit more layered and complicated than the first one I wrote. I did some research, and brainstorming with trusted friends. On my desk right now are 13 file folders ranging from Biological Threat Agents to NecroSearch to Prisons/Supermax to Timeline. Also on my desk are three reference books with sticky tags hanging out all over them, helping me get this thing done right. I hope.

So, I have notes and plot points and character studies . . . and the one thing that makes me stumble?

What will make the Best Next Scene?

I ended the last scene with one of the best hooks I've ever written. Seriously. I'm not sayin' it's the best hook anyone has ever written, it's just one of the best ones from moi. So, the following scene needs to be powerful.

I thought about jumping to the antagonist, but that would diminish that fabulous punch. And if I were a reader I might be ticked off. So, one more scene first. And it has to be amazing.

So, writers out there . . . how do you determine your next scene?

CR: Shadow Dance by Julie Garwood. (Have you checked out her website?)

It's all better with friends.


  1. Here's what works for me. When I have to sort of inspiration that it sounds like you had with this story, I know the broad strokes of the entire book. Most importantly, I know how it begins and ends. For the middle, I use 3x5 index cards, and jot notes for up to four or five subsequent chapters. I DO NOT like to outline the entire manuscript all at once because I get bored with the story if I know every step the characters are going to take.

    Each card represents one chapter. If I need more than one card then I don't have the chapter worked out well enough. Once I have four or five new cards, I begin to write. As I write those chapters, the characters act and interact in ways that suggest which direction the story needs to go.If I get to a place where I don't know what comes next, I ask myself about the goals of all the characters, about their potential hurdles, anything that might suggest their motivation. Once I know where they want to go, I throw something in their way. Something BIG!

    Now here's the important thing: The scene that comes out of this exercise may not eventually end up in the book, but it will certainly open several doors. Thus, I will be left with many directions in which to take the story.

  2. I guess the first thing I do is ask what would organically ("really") happen. I see the story as if it were taking place. That inevitably leads me to something, and I write my little heart out, but as you know from my accounts of what happens after my trusty get a hold of my "P"FDs, it's not always the right thing.

    That's what next drafts are for.

    So the only advice I can offer is to find your way to something and not get too hung up on whether it's all powerful, the best, most perfect scene to follow this masterful one. Write. Write your big heart out. If it's not perfection now, it will be later.

    And congrats on yesterday's great work!