Monday, August 3, 2015

What Work Does It Do?

The first few drafts of a novel generally result in a large conglomeration of words. Here is a quick and easy way to initiate revisions.
  1. Write a short description of each scene.
  2. Note what work the scene does.
Scenes work by:
  • advancing the plot
  • introducing characters
  • elucidating characters
  • showing how characters react to their world
  • eliminating characters
  • laying a foundation for an upcoming event
  • building or releasing suspense
  • building or destroying relationships between characters
  • laying a clue
  • exposing a red herring
  • advancing or thwarting the protagonist
  • advancing or thwarting the antagonist
  • ratcheting up the tension
  • creating a turning point
If I missed something, please tell me in the comments.

If you can’t identify what work a scene does in about two seconds, the scene probably has to be cut. Go ahead, re-read that scene. Try again to answer the work question. Any luck?

At this point I often come up with excuses: It provides backstory. It has a great description. It’s funny. Bah.

If you want a tight novel, every scene has to work for a living. 


Lori Van Hoesen said...

Ann this has been hugely helpful to me in revising my novel. Thank you for giving me the link!

Ann Finkelstein said...

Lori: I'm so glad it was helpful. It's been good for my novel too.