What is the secret to completing your novel? I ask this because if you’re like most writers, you already have a wonderful process in place to start your story. But problems begin to arise while you slog through the vast middle, and before you know it, you see a squirrel. You’re off to another brilliant idea that captured your attention while you were having a weak moment of “this novel is crap.” First,

don’t listen to the squirrel siren; she’s the horned little nymph on your shoulder pointing you toward greener pastures. Second, stick with the story you’ve already poured your heart and soul into. I recently heard a brilliant line in a drama series, Better the devil you know, than the devil you don’t. If your laptop’s blank, white screen mocks you with images of Lucipher, himself, maybe you two need a break from each other, some time to iron out your problems. Your story wants to be brilliant, but she can’t do this all alone. Remember, it takes two to Tango. During this short sabbatical while finding yourself, use the time judiciously and return to your writing relationship renewed and committed to monogamy. I only have eyes for you. Learn how to write an effective Scene List, become engaged in your story, and take back control of those wandering eyes.

SCENE is made up of two parts: Scene and Sequel. That may sound confusing, but go with me on this one. You must first learn how to identify and create the 6 components that make up the two parts of SCENE. Let me expound.

Scene is the first half of your SCENE. Write one line for each component below to make up the first half of every SCENE.

  1. Goal – The Protagonist and/or Antagonist in your Scene need a goal. A goal identifies what your character desires in the Scene. You may think that the goal is for boy to get the girl in every Scene. But that is the overall goal that should be broken down into little Scene goals. Using the boy gets girl motivation or goal, an example for the Scene you are writing may be to get girl to accept an invitation to meet for dinner. That will be the goal for this Scene.
  2. Conflict – Your Scene needs tension. Now it wouldn’t be very tense if girl immediately said yes to the dinner invitation. Create a conflict for your character, and I mean be ruthless in the conflict you heap on your darlings. Obstacles create tension and create delicious Scene conflict. Boy can’t ask out girl to dinner because he is emotionally stifled by debilitating shyness. Readers will continue to read because they want boy to overcome this obstacle to achieve the goal.
  3. Disaster – Through whatever means available to you, pour down disaster like water breaking through a dam. While boy was trying to overcome his shyness affliction by attending weekly meetings of Toastmasters, girl accepted a dinner date with boy’s co-worker ~ Scene Disaster!

Sequel is the second half of your SCENE. Write one line for each component below to make up the second half of every SCENE.

  1. Reaction – This will be the emotional Sequel to the disaster from item number 3 that slapped your character in the head. Boy’s confidence is bruised and allows negative self-talk to justify his feelings of anger/sadness/remorse.
  2. Dilemma – Now that boy’s Sequel reaction is good and hammered out, pile on one more situation that comes with no good options. Boy finds out that co-worker is a womanizer and has left a trail of broken hearts. Boy wants to protect girl, but fears that she will interpret his good intentions of ratting out their co-worker as a mean spirited attempt at sabotaging her happiness; thereby eliminating his ability to ever ask her out. On the other hand, if he waits for her to be co-worker’s next conquest, girl will be too emotionally distraught to go out with anyone from work ever again.
  3. Decision – This is the act of your character picking one of the Sequel options in number 5 even though readers know it’s a bad idea. If you’ve ever been to a horror film where the barefoot scared Girlscout is about to go through a door leading her straight into the boogie man’s lair, then you have witnessed a character making a bad decision. But the good news is that readers (and movie goers) will continue to root for your character because they, too, have had to pick the lesser of two evils in their own life. They want boy to somehow make the best of his impossible situation. This decision will lead to the beginning of your next SCENE, where a new goal will be revealed.

Once you have created a sentence for each of the above Scene and Sequel components, repeat until your novel is fleshed out. You will be surprised to learn that once your creative juices begin to flow, and you’ve recorded each SCENE’s 6 components on index cards, an Excel spreadsheet, in Scrivener, or even on a huge piece of butcher block paper taped to your office wall, your story will have taken on a beautiful shape. No longer will your eyes stray to another, at least until your current Work In Progress (WIP) becomes a novel.

Please tell me what stage your WIP is in. I love the stories that writers share with each other. They provide me with inspiration and help me keep my wandering eyes on the prize.


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