Well, maybe that’s a pipe dream. We all know that good writing is about revising and polishing, revising and polishing — a lot. But you just might be able to make your writing and revising a little more effective.

The other day, I was having trouble rewriting the opening scene for my novel. I’ve gotten several critiques stating that my opening isn’t strong enough. I have too much back story. My writing is good, but perhaps a little too flowery in places. I should try to eliminate the flashback. I’m on my third major rewrite of the chapter and umpteenth minor edit.

Tuesday was a dreary day outside my studio window. The wind drove the snow into ghostly clouds across the lake. I was getting frustrated.

What to do… what to do…

Free-write your way to a great chapter or scene. License: Public Domain

Here’s what I did. I opened my “scratchpad” on my computer (Word). I took a number of deep breaths to relax (meditation). I closed my eyes and imagined I was my main character. I started to ask myself a series of question and then started free writing (free typing) with my eyes closed. Brainstorming. No limitations. No boundaries. No censorship. I didn’t worry about grammar or spelling; I just wanted to get the facts.

I could have tried handwriting, but I’m pretty sure I’d never be able to read the resultant scratching!

These are some of the things I thought about and recorded:

  • what the room looked like where I alternated between sitting restlessly and pacing the tiny space
  • I thought about what was going on outside the little window which gave a view to a dreary, windy, rainy day.
  • I thought about how I felt physically. Was I shivering? Was I tired from not sleeping the night before? Was I hungry?
  • I thought about smells and sounds that might be in the room. What does damp stone smell like?

I recorded all the thoughts going on in my head: the what if‘s, the doubts, the excitement, the nervousness, the fear.

After I typed everything I could think of, I reviewed it and got some insight into what was really going on. I didn’t revise my chapter right away. I’m letting it simmer for a while. Now, when I go back to the scene though, I think I can revise it a bit easier.

Now, I’m pretty sure I didn’t didn’t invent anything new here. I read about free-writing on the Internet and I’ve actually free-written lots of times. But… Why didn’t someone tell me to apply it to my novel!

What tips or tricks do you use when you encounter a difficult chapter, scene, passage, paragraph, or sentence?

Try this exercise! Write away! Let me know how it goes. I know your characters (and your story) will thank you.



8 thoughts on “How to write a scene right the first time

  1. This good advice Caerlynn. I find the trick is to not get too far ahead of yourself. Concentrate on a character or a situation and ask yourself all those questions you listed above. I find trying to get into the head of the character a strong way of capturing the detail required though I have to say I also re write a lot, sometimes the rewrite can be eye opening in that it explores ideas I hadn’t thought of before. Often I find writing and then going away and doing something else can give you a fresh insight into what you have been trying to do. I do know it can be wonderful one day and frustrating the next.

    1. I agree with you about re-writing. When you go back, you always see things you didn’t the first time. Setting your writing aside for a while is a great tip too. It’s amazing what you can see when you look at a piece again later with fresh eyes, a fresh perspective. And yes, some days are better than other! Thanks for visiting and taking the time to comment — most appreciated! Have a great day.

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