A Novel from Pieces


Anonymous asked: “Hey Lizard! I have my story outlined and plotted and I have got most scenes written, but I feel that I can’t connect them. I feel like my story lacks a certain kind of ‘flow.’ Is there a tip you can give me how to connect scenes so it doesn’t feel like a hard cut after every scene?”

That is a great question. So there is one thing that about writing sequentially is that you allow conflict to build naturally. Whenever I write sequentially, my scenes often blur together and aren’t necessarily quite as strong as they could be. I find myself always needing to go back, to work on scenes to beef them up so they’re a bit stronger.

Writing each scene on its own often will act a little like it’s own stand-alone story in some ways, but with that said, this can mean that the scenes will pack a little more of a punch. The trouble with this is that it can be hard to have that same build, so just like how the sequential writers might have to go around and beef up each scene, the scene by scene writers have to go check to make sure one scene flows to the next. No matter how you go about writing your novel, there’s going to be some level of editing and more often than not, it’s quite a bit of an extensive process (to say the least). Neither method is perfect, but within each set of scenes it will be a matter of identifying the main conflict and how these scenes escalate that conflict. How is it building towards the climax and resolution?

Not every scene needs to be about the central plot, though I would say every chapter probably does, so that will be another thing too. Which few scenes together can be thrown together to make a cohesive chapter? This may mean having bridges between scenes. There will have to be some cohesive timeline so that readers can kind of anticipate what scenes coming. There can be small clues here and there. If one character mentions a party that night in chapter one, then you expect at some point, they will go to this party. There is some linear thread that runs through the novel and makes sense of the scenes you’ve chosen to include. 

A lot of this I know is super vague, but I’m so hesitant to set down any real rules about anything like this. There are so many fantastic novels that are created in pieces. I don’t know if they were written linearly or not, but that doesn’t matter – I’m just thinking of A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan and Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel to name two on my mind. 

Anyway, I think if you’ve written all your scenes, it might be time to do some outlining and drafting. See what you’ve got so far and assemble it and try to read it in the order you think it belongs in and see what you’ve got so far. It will definitely take editing to get all the way there, but when it comes to finishing a first draft, there’s more than one way to skin that cat. 

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