Tag Archives: how to write fiction

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.


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.

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Short Fiction Secrets: How To Write And Sell Short Stories

Short Fiction Secrets: How To Write And Sell Short Stories


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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How to Sneak Up on Writing Your Book

Writers Ultimate Cash Formula

Want to sneak up on writing your book? You can. Authors no longer write their books in isolation; readers read authors’ work as they write, and this helps authors immensely.

The big benefit of having readers is that you receive feedback. You’ll see very quickly what readers respond to, and what they don’t. This is amazing; it’s powerful. Your readers will inspire you to write, and they’ll become the first buyers of your books.

Author EL James, of Fifty Shades of Grey fame, wrote her books as fan fiction. As she wrote, she collected readers. Those readers’ responses helped her to produce phenomenally successful bestsellers.

There are many sites which will allow you to write your book online, and get readers and feedback as you write. They include Wattpad, and Writer’s Bloq.

You’re sneaking up on your book, because you’re writing just a chapter or two at a time, rather than waiting to write the entire book before you start looking for feedback.

If you’re not comfortable on large sites, you can post your writing on your own blog. You won’t have as many readers, and you’ll need to promote your blog. However, you will get feedback as you write.

How to Get Started Sneaking up on Writing Your Book

1. Decide What You Want to Write

Novelists are divided into two main types: the free writers, and the outliners.

Free writing novelists (also called “pantsers” because they write by the seat of their pants) just start writing, telling themselves the story.

Outlining novelists like to know exactly where their book is going before they get started on the writing. They outline each scene and chapter.

You’ll soon discover whether you’re a pantser, or an outliner.

2. Set a Goal for the Number of Words You Want to Write Each Day

Without a daily word count goal, you’ll procrastinate. Choose the number of words you think you can write on a good day, and then halve it. Set that number of words as your daily goal.

Post your daily output to a website, or to your own blog.

3. Develop a Routine

To write a book, you need to fit writing into your daily schedule.

Most writers find that they write best either late in the evening, or first thing in the morning. However, you may find that you like writing during your lunch hour, or before dinner.

Choose a time and write, and then stick to that time. When the time arrives, sit down at your computer and start writing.

Although writing a book can be a huge undertaking, you can sneak up on it. Many successful writers have done it, and you can too.

Turn Your Words Into Gold: Write and Sell An Ebook In Just Eight Hours


Here’s what I love about writing ebooks: you write them once, and they keep on selling forever.

I know several writers who’ve taken to the Kindle platform like the proverbial ducks to water. One writer friend turns out a new Kindle ebook every month, like clockwork. The last time we spoke, she had 11 ebooks selling — and her income is rising month by month.

Another writer friend mixes writing her own ebooks, with writing ebooks for others. Currently she’s been commissioned to write a biography, and a family history, for the same client. She’s finding it huge fun, and she’s making more money than she’s ever made.

The benefit of writing and selling ebooks is that once written, they can keep on selling forever. Would you trade eight hours for an income stream?