Tag Archives: first draft

Editing Your Novel: Using Motivation Reaction Units

Editing Your Novel: Using Motivation Reaction Units

Your novel is DONE! Kudos… Now it’s time for editing.

Start by thinking about your readers. Writing is all about the reader. Sometimes we forget that. In the back of your mind, you always need to remember the reader, and his reactions as he reads.

In nonfiction, you write to inform, or to entertain, or persuade your reader. When you’re writing fiction, you write to give the reader an emotional experience.

Think about the emotional experience you want to give readers before you start writing, when you choose the genre of your novel. Are you writing a mystery? A romance? A science fiction epic?

Think about how you choose what you’ll read too. If you’re reading a mystery, why did you pick up that book? What attracted you to it? What emotional experience are you hoping for?

Once you start writing however, you’ll forget the reader, and that’s how it should be. In your first draft, you simply write. You’re discovering your story, and its characters.

Let’s imagine that you’ve completed your first draft. You ensured that every scene you wrote had a viewpoint character, who had a goal. Each scene contained conflict, and ended in a disaster for your viewpoint character.

Now it’s time to revise and edit your novel.

Nitty gritty revision: Motivation Reaction Units

Sadly, it’s VERY hard to get what’s in your head onto the page.

One of the best ways to ensure that you do that, is to make sure that every scene, and its sequel, contains a sequence of MRUs.

Randy Ingermanson has a wonderful explanation of MRUs. “MRU” means “Motivation-Reaction Unit.” They’re a way of decoding what’s in your head, so that your reader has the experience you want him to have. Once you understand MRUs, and apply them, your writing will instantly improve.

As this article, Dwight Swain’s Motivation-Reaction Units | The First Gates, says:

“Motivation-Reaction Unit is the fundamental building block of an action sequence (it’s important to stress that it does not apply to description, exposition, or reverie). It’s pretty simple: something happens, the hero reacts to it, the situation changes, and something else happens. “

MRUs are the way your reader experiences your fiction. Your reader is in your viewpoint character’s body, seeing what he sees, and reacting as he does. They’re powerful. You need to learn how to use them, and then write in MRUs as you edit your fiction.

Watch how writers use MRUs in your reading, too. Getting your head around MRUs is a challenge. Focus on scenes first. Does the viewpoint character have a goal? What’s the conflict? How could you make the conflict more intense? What’s logical? What’s unexpected? What’s the disaster?

In revision, you’ll find that in some scenes, nothing much happens. Be brave. Delete those scenes. You’re providing your reader with an emotional experience, remember. If there’s no emotion, the scene must go. Save deleted scenes to an “Extras” file, if it makes you feel better.

Discovering MRUs, and using them, will immediately improve your novel. Sometime today, take an early scene in your novel, and rewrite it, using MRUs.

Step By Step To Fiction Which Sells: Plotting And Scene Magic

Step By Step To Fiction Which Sells: Plotting And Scene Magic

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Your readers want to enter your novel's world. They want to experience your book -- they want to live your book with your main characters.

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Map It: For Writing Success — Fiction And Nonfiction Outlines Made Easy

Map It: For Writing Success — Fiction And Nonfiction Outlines Made Easy

eBook: $5.99

I developed the tactics and strategies in this book to help myself. My students have found them essential to producing both fiction and nonfiction almost effortlessly.

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Updated: January 22, 2018

Essential Fiction Writing Tip: Story First

Essential Fiction Writing Tip: Story First

I’ve received some questions about fiction writing from new authors. Here’s the thing. In fiction, worry about the story first. You can sort everything else out later. Please don’t try to edit first.

Write first, edit later

I’m currently completing the final scenes in a romantic suspense novel. I adore the two main characters, so I’ve decided to create a series of three novels about them.

This means that a bunch of scenes — around seven, from memory — don’t belong in this book. I’ve moved them into book two of the series. They’ll wait there, until I’m ready.

It’s tempting to edit as you go. However, you’ll often find yourself in a situation where a few scenes become irrelevant, as in my situation. I need to write a whole new bunch of scenes so that the climax and ending fit my new writing goals.

That’s the primary reason you edit LATER — the scenes you’re sweating over may be deleted.

Your story always comes first

New authors tend to rewrite early chapters. That’s pointless. Nine times out of ten, you won’t even use the first few scenes of your novel. You’ll start the story later, or you’ll decide that you want to add something or other, and need to rework the first scenes.

Until you’ve got the STORY down, and have finished your first draft, there’s no point in rewriting, or editing.

Put stuff in, if it’s SHORT

I encourage my students to write their first drafts straight through. But what happens if you get an idea for something, and you want to add it to earlier scenes right now? Put it in, if it’s short.

In my romantic suspense, I came up with a cute McGuffin. I needed to write about it in my current scene. So I went back and added it to the first scene immediately, and mentioned in three more scenes.

Here’s why. I wasn’t sure how to play it. It was just an idea, and I wanted to see how (and if) it worked. It did. So I wrote a few hundred words, then went back to the scene I was working on when I got the idea.

If I’d had an idea for a completely new character, or an event, I would have made a note, and added it in the second draft. My McGuffin was short. Writing it took less than half an hour, and adding it didn’t disturb my forward momentum.

In your first draft, momentum is everything. If you linger, you may lose the thread of your story. Chaos and migraines ensure. Keep going — get the story down.

As a rule of thumb, you can add stuff in a first draft, if it’s immediately relevant, very short, and easy to add.

To repeat: EDIT LATER. 🙂

Plan, Write, And Publish Serial Fiction In Four Weeks

Plan, Write, And Publish Serial Fiction In Four Weeks

eBook: $5.99

Why write serial fiction?

Everyone's busy today. A serial is by its nature, faster to write, and publish, than a novel.

It's a quicker read too, and many readers appreciate this. While a reader may hesitate before committing hours to a novel, he can read an episode of your serial in minutes.

If you’re a new author, a serial serves to introduce you to readers. A reader may not be willing to commit to a novel by a new author, but be willing to read an episode of a serial.

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Master Fiction Writing: Craft A Novel in 31 Days

Master Fiction Writing: Craft A Novel in 31 Days

$4.99
Author:
Series: Selling Writer Strategies, Book 4
Genre: Writing
Tag: writing fiction

You want to write a novel. Perhaps you can't get started. Or maybe you got started, and then you stopped.You need a plan, broken down into easy steps. This program began as a 30-day challenge which I organized for readers in 2010. Hundreds of writers joined the challenge and completed it. They wrote novels.

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Scenes In Fiction: Cut The Flab

Scenes In Fiction: Cut The Flab

You’re writing Kindle fiction. Your aim is to SELL, and to do that you must entertain readers. Scenes in fiction are dramatic, so they’re a way to ensure that readers keep reading. Scenes put readers right in the middle of your action; they can’t wait to see what happens next.

Usually.

I’m lazy writer. I like to find the shortest way of doing something, so that I can write more. Always. So I write in scenes, and I advise my students to do that too. However the “write in scenes” advice comes a couple of with pitfalls.

Firstly, let’s remind ourselves of what a scene is, and how many scenes you need for various forms of fiction.

In Writing Short Stories: How Many Scenes Do You Need?, we discussed that a scene is a unit of action, and said that:

Assuming that your average scene length is 1500 words:

7 scenes for a short story: 10,000 words

27 scenes for a novella: 40,000 words

60 scenes for a novel: 90,000 words

Here are the two pitfalls to be aware of when you’re writing in scenes:

  • Scenes speed up your novel/ short story; and
  • Save your scenes for periods of drama: something MUST change in a scene.

1. Scenes speed up your story’s pace: slow down occasionally

Some authors write primarily in scenes, and their (short) sequels. A scene is drama: action. Your character has a goal for the scene; at the end of the scene, he’s failed to achieve that goal. Alternatively, he achieves that goal, but something else goes wrong.

Whatever happens in the scene, it’s followed by the scene’s sequel: your character taking stock for a moment, and deciding what to do next.

The trouble with stories (whether short stories or novels), is that if your story is all an up and down process of scene and sequel, your story can lose energy. This despite the fact that your story’s moving quickly. Readers sense that they’re being manipulated. They don’t like it, because they’re taken out of the story.

In your first draft therefore, hew to scene/ sequel, but in the next draft, add something more. This “more” can be backstory, juicing up some scenes — it’s up to you.

If your beta readers tell you that they loved your story, but… and then can’t explain what the “but” is, because your story seems perfect on the surface, that may be the problem. It’s all surface.

2. Cut flabby scenes: ask yourself what CHANGES in a scene

When you’re revising, after your first draft, look at your scenes with a cold eye and heart. Ask yourself, for each scene, what WHAT CHANGES HERE?

If nothing much changes, and you say to yourself: “But my character’s walking his dog in the park: I need the scene because it shows that even though he’s a billionaire, he’s just a normal guy at heart.”

Or you say: “But I need this scene. This character is murdered half way through the book; no one will care if they don’t get to know him…”

In both instances above, the writer may be 100% correct. The scene works, and it’s needed.

However, recall that we said:

“A scene is defined as a unit of action; the operative word being ACTION. Something happens in a scene. If nothing much happens, it’s not a scene.”

So, if you feel you need a scene, make sure that something happens in the scene — something that’s relevant to your story, and therefore CHANGES your story.

Your dog walking billionaire could see a bunch of kids playing in a sandpit, and realize that he wants his own children — that’s a change.

The murder victim may realize that he knows something related to one of the other characters in your story: a change.

If you always ensure that something dramatic happens in a scene — something changes — readers will be happy to keep reading.

So, in conclusion, in your revisions watch your pacing, because scenes speed up the pace, and watch for flabby scenes, in which nothing much changes.

Be careful not to mess around with your scenes too much in your first draft.

In your first draft, let your story grow

Finally, remember that in your first draft, just keep the advice to “write in scenes” in mind.

Keep writing. If you get too left-brained, you’ll switch off your flow of inspiration, and will damage your story. Think of your story as a plant. You can’t yank on it to make it grow faster. Let it grow. You can prune it later.

Map It: For Writing Success — Fiction And Nonfiction Outlines Made Easy

Map It: For Writing Success — Fiction And Nonfiction Outlines Made Easy

eBook: $5.99

I developed the tactics and strategies in this book to help myself. My students have found them essential to producing both fiction and nonfiction almost effortlessly.

More info →
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Short Fiction Secrets: How To Write And Sell Short Stories

Short Fiction Secrets: How To Write And Sell Short Stories

$5.99

Want to write short stories? If you answered yes, that's excellent… Here's why. Today, you can make money writing short fiction.

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Get daily writing news and tips on the blog’s Facebook page.

Need help with your writing? Visit our online store, or check out Angela’s books for writers.