I write in layers, like a painter working in oil. First comes the idea, then a very simple sketch. When I think I’ve got the makings of a story, I write an outline in broad strokes with no detail, no life. Then comes the scene-by-scene or chapter-by-chapter outline. I chart the chapters to show the rise and fall of tension, ensure that the pressure keeps mounting, place exposition appropriately, etc. Meanwhile I’m writing scenes or bits of scenes on the computer – random thoughts as they occur to me, fodder for the actual writing. When the outline is complete, I put the scenes or chapters in order on the computer, one page for each, with a header and a VERY brief summary. Then I go back to my “doodles” and extract those ideas worth using and plant them in the appropriate pages. Then I can begin the actual writing of the first draft.
The first draft is stream of consciousness; fast, loose, disjointed, and full of ugly crap. I don’t worry about redundancies, characterization, dialogue, or anything else. No one is going to read this draft but me. In a sense, it is just a more detailed outline.
When I’ve completed the first draft, I print it so I can cross things out, draw arrows, make notes, write bits of dialogue on the back of the page, etc. The story has now been told.
Next I use what I consider to be a pretty exhaustive checklist to make sure that every scene works individually, and functions within the whole. I add detail, color, light, and shade.
When this is done, all that’s left is the character-by-character read through (to check for character arc, voice and story consistancy, etc.) Then it’s ready for my trusted readers to take their whacks at it.
So, here’s my list. Have I left something out? Are some of the questions out of order? Do I have unneccessary/redundant questions?
I’d love to hear your opinion.
|1||What is the plot goal of this scene?|
|2||Could the book/story be told without this chapter/scene? (If so, why is it here?)|
|3||Does this scene advance the plot with important new information?|
|4||What info (bit/etc.) ties this scene to other scenes or other key story elements?|
|5||What is the mood of this scene?|
|6||What is the visceral goal of this scene? (suspense, curiosity, sympathy, repulsion, etc.)|
|7||Does this scene tell its own story?|
|8||Does this scene have its own arc?|
|9||How does this scene generate interest?|
|10||Does this scene generate excitement? If so, how?|
|11||Why should the reader care about this scene?|
|12||What will make the reader turn pages in this scene?|
|13||Does this scene turn, twist, or otherwise alter the reader’s perceived plot trajectory?|
|14||Does the main character say anything interesting/unexpected/embarassing?|
|15||Does the main character do anything interesting/unexpected/embarassing?|
|16||Do other characters do anything interesting/unexpected/embarassing?|
|17||How does the POV character feel (excited, ill, tired, alert, etc.)?|
|18||How do other characters feel?|
|19||Look up, down, left, right, forward, behind – are the surroundings realistically described?|
|20||What does the POV character hear in the background?|
|21||What does the POV character smell?|
|22||What does the POV character taste?|
|23||What tactile sensations does the POV character feel?|
|24||Do other characters see, hear, smell, feel, taste anything different? If so, what?|
|25||What key detail is brought out through the senses?|
|26||What does the POV character learn in this scene?|
|27||How is the story theme addressed in this scene?|
|28||Is there enough dialogue? Can more dialogue be inserted?|
|29||Is anything “told” that could be “shown?”|
|30||Is any sentence passive that could be active?|
|31||Is any action/circumstance passive that could be more active?|
|32||What is the scene’s question that drives the reader to the next chapter?|