I’m currently about one third through my first draft of Prophecy, my second thriller novel. Given that we are all on a journey and I expect to be doing this in many years time, I also use this blog as a kind of journal – so I can see where I have come from and how far I’m getting. We all write differently so I hope you find this useful. (Text below the video for those who like to read).
Right now, I write a scene like this:
- Decide on basic idea for scene – 1 liner. For example, my protagonist Morgan is kidnapped by the bad guys. I start to think about this and what will happen as well as the point of the scene. In this scene, stakes will go up a notch, the reader will want to know what happens next. I can also show character traits of the antagonist as well as Morgan’s ARKANE partner Jake in planning the rescue. In other scenes, I can demonstrate what a kick-ass heroine Morgan is and of course, move the story forward (why kidnap her in the first place?)
- Decide on great setting which is hugely important for thrillers. I need big locations and I want cinematic style writing which requires a venue. I am also a travel addict so I like to incorporate places I’ve been. Last month I was in Paris and there is a room in the Louvre that is perfect and I also have the perfect location for where Morgan is taken afterwards (which is another scene).
- Composting. I literally daydream about the scene and write down little ideas. I usually have 3-4 scenes percolating at any one time, mulching down into something interesting until I really need to get it out. My day job is crazy right now so I am not writing every day, just in bigger chunks.
- Decide on whose point of view it will be written from. In thrillers, it’s most common to use multiple third person POV so I tend to pick a different character and tell it from their angle. I have to switch the ideas around until I am happy with who is seeing the scene.
- Sit down to write 2000 words at least in one session. I seem to be writing in scene-length blocks right now and for me, that’s around 2000 words. I have a general plan of about 30 scenes for Prophecy but these are added to as I write and come up with new ideas – so I am part plotter, part pantser/discovery writer at the moment. I will end up with 40-50 scenes in the finished book. I am using Scrivener on my Mac to write and although I am now in England, it’s summer so I am listening to Rain on my iPod (yes, it’s just the noise of rain!). 2000 words is currently taking me about 2-3 hours because of the next point.
- Adding in details as I write. While writing Pentecost, I spent so much time redrafting as I didn’t add enough detail in the first pass through. I don’t want to do 7 drafts this time. I would rather to 3-4, so I want to add more detail on the first pass. I also had feedback that some people found Pentecost too fast-paced. Now I love fast-paced, but I can see some scenes needed a little more description/padding or more dialogue. So I am trying to weave that in at first draft. I may go back to using Write Or Die for messy first draft writing if I get stuck but for now, this pace is suiting me. I find details through Google for detail e.g. the Louvre website for plans and detail of the statues in the room I am using for setting. I also use Flickr.com for imagery that help me with description e.g. you want an original word to describe the colour green. Go to Flickr.com and put in ‘green’ and describe what comes up.
- End with a page-turner. Forgive me, I’m a genre writer. I need to keep the reader up all night. I want you to miss your favorite TV program because you’re reading my book. I want you to race through it! So I end the scene with some sense of urgency to turn the page, a new hook.
- Come up with idea for the next scene. Once I have written one scene, I know what the next one will be. It’s a form of discovery writing I guess. So as long as I have 10-15 big scene ideas, they will in turn spawn more scenes each. So I always have scenes percolating.
- Save, back up. Scrivener backs everything up but it will also compile a version you can export as a .doc. I chronically back up everything I have an external hard drive, but I also have cloud storage and I email my WIP to myself on gmail so I always have the latest copy. I still get emails from people who lose their work – seriously guys, please save and back up everything you do! (For the blog, I use BackUpBuddy wordpress plugin)
I’m not reading my work at the moment, just writing it. So I won’t look at these scenes again until the first draft is finished. I’m aiming for 80,000 words for first draft… I’m getting there!
If the penny hasn’t dropped about writing scenes yet, I recommend Larry Brooks Story Engineering – check out our interview here.
How do you write scenes? Please let me know in the comments. I love to learn new techniques.