I found Sally in line for coffee as I entered the coffee shop. She had already dumped her bag onto a chair, had already tugged off her gloves, her wool jacket, and wore her game face.
“What’s up? Did you not have a great thanksgiving?”
“It was fine. But, I’m 3000 words away from finishing my novel.”
“That’s great.” I shed my jacket and motioned to Kathy. She gave me a smile, already on my order.
“No so much.” She retrieved her coffee and handed me mine. I nodded my appreciation.
“Because I only have 46000 words and I’m near the end of my novel.”
“It’ supposed to be an 80,000 word novel! How am I going to come up with 30,000 more words?”
“Oh, I see. You think just because you finished NaNoWriMo with a 50,000 word manuscript that you’re done. Mmmhmm.”
“Well, I know it needs editing….”
“Sally. What you have created is the shell of your novel. You’ve put down every great scene you can think of, and because you are racing through the novel to write it – because that is the point of NaNoWriMo – you are hitting all the big events. I bet you have sentences like, “She argued with him until she got her way,” and “The clock read 7am as she got into her car for work, angry at…whoever.”
“So? What’s your point?”
“Take a breath. This is normal. You’ve rushed into your story and through your scene so you can quickly download the story from your head to the page without losing it. That’s excellent. Now that you have the framework of your story, you have to go back and add the furniture, the decorative touches. Storyworld and description and emotional layering.
Let’s return to those simple sentences. Instead of telling us that the argument happened, how about letting us hear that argument. We want to be a part of it.
Instead of telling us what time the clock read, how about really putting us in the scene?
The sunrise simmered over the far horizon, hot lava spilling over the tops of the birch and pine trees, splashing down upon the frost that covered her windshield. She opened the car door with a creak and fished around for the scraper. Shoot, she’d left it in the other car. Digging through her purse, she found her old fitness club card. Well, it wasn’t like she’d use that anytime soon. She attacked the front windshield, drawing thick lines through the frost, the ice curling up over her bare fingers, turning them numb.
Maybe the rest of her could turn numb, too – anything to stop the roaring heat inside that was sure to spill over onto Malcolm the minute she walked into the office.
How could he steal her presentation?
“Okay, I made up Malcolm – “
“I already hate him.”
“But see, instead of telling us how she felt, I drew you into the scene slowly, letting the reader really see it. Your WriMo scenes are essential because they’ve provided the framework of your story. You now need to go back and flesh out each scene, adding in all the beautiful details, the storyworld, the characterization, the dialogue, the emotional and the metaphors. You’ve only just begun.” (You can sing along if you’d like).
She laughed. “So give me a game plan.”
“Okay. When you’re finished with the fast draft, go back to the beginning and analyze every scene. First ask:
- Have I created the right kind of Scene? Is it an Action or ReAction scene? Define your goals, conflict, disaster, or your response, dilemma, decision.
- Have I build in Tension? Remember your equation! Sympathetic Character + Stakes + Goals + Obstacle + Fear of Failure (for premium members, check out these past articles on creating tension in your scenes:
- Have I built in enough Storyworld?
Do I have the NEWS of the scene – Who, What, When, Where and Why?
Do I have the 5 senses?
Have I created a mood with the use of my 5 senses, the verbs and nouns I use?
- Have I used the right POV? (Point of View). Would the scene have more impact if it was in a different POV? (remember, write it in the POV of the person who had the most to lose).
- Do I have enough Dialogue in the scene? Dialogue moves a story and creates tension. If you have even one page without Dialogue, insert something – a remembered conversation, a phone conversation, even a letter or journal entry to create another voice.
Have you created sparks with your dialogue? If it feels tired and expected, have your character say something they shouldn’t – that should cause some tension!
- Have I created Emotion through Action? Give your character something to do, and have it convey his emotions. What does the character do because of the way he/she feels?
“And here’s the biggest question: Have I glossed over moments in my rush to get to the end of the scene? Have I allowed my reader to experience every important nuance of the scene? Slow it down. Describe the scene. Take your time. Your character will still go off the cliff – you are just helping the reader understand how dangerous it is and how hard he tries to stop it.
“And, speaking of cliffs – DON’T FORGET TO END YOUR SCENE WITH A NEW PROBLEM!! (premium members check out: http://www.mybooktherapy.com/conversations-keeping-your-reader-hooked-through-every-chapter/)
“The mark of a great novelist is their ability to draw you into the world they see and allow you to feel it with the character.”
Sally was smiling now.
“Yes. It’s like I finally get to read the story I’ve written.”
“Exactly. You’ve done the hard work of building the house. Now this is the fun part – decorating.”
“Just in time for Christmas.”
Truth: Your first draft of your story just builds the story foundation. Even if you are a “punster” you’ll need to go back and add in the rich details and layers to make your story satisfying.
Dare: Finish your fast-draft, then go back and allow yourself time to rebuild, decorate and savor the story you’ve written.
P.S. By the way, if you sign up for the daily Flashblog reminder in your email box, you receive the 5 Elements of a Best-Selling
Novel. A quick class on those foundational elements every editor is looking for! Sign up at: http://forms.aweber.com/form/35/866611135.htm
P.P.S. As you might already know, MBT is now offering a PREMIUM membership with access to our full library, advanced teaching through webinars and video talk shows and a monthly advanced class. For more info, check out: www.mybooktherapy.com/join-the-team/.