Write Better Fiction: Scene ACTION

Welcome the 2016 kickoff of Write Better Fiction. It’s the start of a new year, maybe you wrote your manuscript during November, took a break for the holidays and are ready to get to work.

But what to do? How about self-critiquing your manuscript?

If you missed the first three blogs in this series, you might want to check them out before reading this one.

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I need a systematic method for critiquing my novels, and I’ve used this method for all my novels. To prove to you it works, here is what Todd Barselow, senior editor at Imajin Books, said about DESCENT.

“My life would be so much easier if all the manuscripts that crossed my desk were as clean as yours.”

Now that I have your attention, today I’ll explain how to use the ACTION column.

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I keep this entry short. Use only one to three sentences to describe what happens in the scene. If you can’t describe the action in three sentences, maybe too much is happening in the scene, and it could be broken into two or three scenes. A scene with too much happening might confuse or exhaust the reader.

Once you’ve written the action for every scene in your novel, review the entire column and look for repetitions. Repetitions, unless written for a purpose, can be boring to the reader.

For example, your protagonist is hit by a car. In three different scenes you fill in the action, having your protagonist tell another character about the incident. Do you really need to have this happen three times? Could you summarize if the other character needs to know this information?

The action column helps me write a synopsis. After I’ve completed this for the manuscript I cut the column, save it to a word document and start writing a synopsis. It’s only a beginning, but it gives me a framework. And we all know how hard it is to write a synopsis.

Your challenge this week is to articulate the action for each scene in your novel. Please me know in the comments below how you evaluate the action? Do you have a question you ask yourself about action?

I critiqued DESCENT and BLAZE using the techniques I’m sharing in Write Better Fiction, and I believe this helped me sign with a publisher.

Thanks for reading…


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