Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Writing Puzzle: Connecting the Pieces

As I go through this series of comparing the working of a jigsaw puzzle to writing a novel I am working a puzzle on my dining room table. It’s a slow go…but then so is writing.

I first put together the straight edges. I sorted several pieces by color and then started finding the pieces that stood out in the picture on the box –the pieces that when put together created the focus of the picture on the front of the puzzle box. The puzzle I chose to use is a picture of a garden. There is an old chair on the stone patio, an earthen pot in one corner. Flowers spill over the garden wall. It is the promise of springtime.

The picture is a composite of elements. The chair alone wouldn’t tell the story, nor would the flowers or setting. It is, in essence, a compilation of scenes.

Before I wrote my first novel, Breathing on Her Own, a more experienced writer told me to identify eight to ten specific scenes significant to my story and write each down on a separate piece of paper. Her suggestion was to draft those scenes or at least sketch them out a bit then write from scene to scene.

When she talked about scenes she wasn’t talking about locations but rather about situations where action takes place. I say that because during a workshop with some new writers, I had that question posed to me. Scenes are those pivotal points that carry the story –move it forward.

Remember last week when I shared what I remembered about the formula for writing a romance novel? There is that scene when boy and girl meet. There is the scene where they have conflict, the scene where they have a first kiss and so forth. And, oh, yes…the wedding scene of course.

Crafting a novel is crafting a series of scenes that once linked together, tell a story. Having identified the story problem…that big question that needs to be resolved between the pages of the book, each scene needs to present to the reader a critical piece of that question   It may be a piece that helps the reader understand the characters better in light of the problem. It may be a scene that offers a possible solution. That is up to you. [Click HERE for more about the “story question.”]

The next step is to connect those scenes –to write your way from scene to scene. I remember my daughter holding up a puzzle piece long ago saying, “Is this blue like the sky or blue like the water?” It is all part of the background. I think part of what connects the pieces or in our case, scenes together is the backstory. Writing from scene to scene is a great place to weave in the backstory. Those connecting points provide the reader with insights about your characters and offer opportunities to reveal minor subplots.

You’ve found the straight edges of your book. [Click HERE if youmissed last week’s post on those four straight edges.] Now you need to build the scenes…one piece at a time. Take my friend’s suggestion. Draft eight to ten scenes then write your way from one scene to another.

Do you have a strategy for developing or connecting scenes? Share with us. Remember, we’re all in this together.

Oh, and you will not want to miss next week. My guest is author Gloria Doty. I just read her new book, Bring a Cowboy Home. It is fun, entertaining, and all in all, a good read.

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