You've got a completed manuscript and you're ready to self-edit, right? So now the big question: Where do you start?
My answer: a self-editing checklist. (If you're just jumping in, check out my post from two weeks ago where I introduced the why behind a self-editing checklist as well as some ground rules.)
Once you feel pretty good about your overall story and characterization, it's time to start in with an analysis of your scenes. Now this can be done however you want. I usually take out my 4-page checklist and work through the entire thing on one scene at a time. If that doesn't work for you, do whatever does.
Here are the first two points on the checklist.
#1 - Scene or Sequel (as coined by Dwight V. Swain in his book Techniques of the Selling Writer). Does my scene have a clear goal, conflict, and disaster? If it's a reaction scene (aka sequel), does it have a reaction, dilemma, and decision that propels it into the next scene? I track these items in an Excel spreadsheet (the CPA in me never dies). :) It helps me make sure I don't have an aimless scene.
Resources: For the full description of the concept behind Scene and Sequel, I highly recommend Dwight's book. Or if you want shorter article-sized summaries, check out Randy Ingermanson's website or Camy Tang's Story Sensei blog.
#2 - Does the scene enact a tangible change, both inwardly and outwardly? This is a direct quote from a Donald Maass post on Writer Unboxed. To read the entire post, click here.
Your homework for the next two weeks, should you choose to accept it: Read the articles I've referenced. And if you have a few extra dollars and some time on your hands, buy Dwight Swain's book (or borrow it from your local library) and read Chapter 4. Then analyze your scene for these two points.
Do you tend to get in the trap of writing aimless scenes? What's your best advice to ramp up a scene and make it meatier?
* Book photo by winnond / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
**Flower photo by Filomena Scalise / FreeDigitalPhotos.net