Setting the Scene: Template for A Novel

Last week I wrote about my template for writing a scene. One of the questions I asked in that template was:  Is the setting the best place for emotional impact?

How do I answer that question? I use another template. For each setting, I ask myself:

What is the Setting Role in Story:

Who are the Related Characters:


Unique Features of the Setting:







This allows me to determine if I’ve described the scene in a vivid manner. If I can’t answer most of the questions,  I don’t think the scene is the best place for emotional impact. I don’t believe sight, sound and smell have to be in every scene, but there should be something there.

The real purpose of the template is to make myself think about the scene in a structured way. If you have a way to do this, I’d love to hear about it.

Thanks for reading . . .

Can Writing a Novel Help Your Career?

I believe the answer is yes.

Without clear communication it’s hard to get things done in our world of team work, offices in different locations, cities or countries, partners working time zones hours away, and the multicultural workplace.

Much of our communication happens via the internet or intranet, making written communication extremely important.

Using interesting, concise and clear communication will help you get your job done, convince others to work on your project, and highlight your intelligence.

Think of the time you save if you only have to send a memo once and not answer questions about it.

Over the last few years, I’ve improved my writing skills by writing several novels. The more time I spend writing, the better I get at it. As they say, whoever they are, practice makes perfect.

So if you think spending time writing a novel that might never get published is a waste of time, think again. Writing a novel will improve how you communicate by the written word.

Have you found this to be true, too?

Thanks for reading.

Novels: Point of a Scene – Is there one or should you cut it?

Is There One or Should You Cut It?

I’ve often read the advice that a novelist should be able to summarize their novel in one to two sentences. This made me start thinking about scenes and chapters.

I asked myself if I knew the point of a scene, and if I didn’t should I cut – yes the dreaded word cut – the scene from the novel? It’s easy to get attached to a scene for many reasons but if there is no point, then I ask you what is the point? J

I challenged myself to go through my latest novel and write one sentence describing the point of the scene.

Taking this one level deeper, and adding a new column to my spreadsheet, I tried to reduce the sentence to one word that described the scene.

This did a couple of things for me.

  1. It showed me what to cut. Ouch.
  2. I helped me organize my chapters into a theme.

The second item was a surprise and created a new way for me to look at organizing chapters.

How do you decide it a scene is needed or not?

Thanks for reading . . .


Before the Story Begins . . .

For any author, the starting point of a novel is a big decision. Do you start before the beginning, at the beginning or after the beginning? And how do you decide?

For my fourth novel, Look the Other Way, I’m trying something new. I wrote 20,000 words of the story. With 20,000 words on paper, I have a good idea who the characters are.

The characters come to life, but not fully at this point. Next, I write character synopses that include the basic details, but also the story of the character’s life up to the beginning of the novel. Each synopsis ends up being three to five pages.

The synopsis format is informal. Point form will do. I don’t worry about typos or grammar, but I do get to know my characters.

This process helps me decide where to begin my novel. It’s a creative process. As I write each synopsis, I keep a separate document open that contains plot points or ideas. By the time I have all the synopses written, I have the full novel outline done too.

From this process, I somehow know where the starting point should be and what the inciting incident is. I chose the point that will drive the characters through the story. Too early, and the scene’s aren’t needed. Too late, and an important scene might be excluded.

Next comes scene writing.

Everybody has a different process for writing a novel. What’s yours?

Need Help Writing a Blurb?

#writetip Are you struggling with writing your blurb? Your novel is finished and you are getting ready to submit it, but the blurb just doesn’t sound right?

Why not ask a couple of your readers to write a blurb for you? A person that is not as close to the novel as you are might have an interesting take on what should be in your blurb.

You may get a whole blurb out of the exercise, you may only use one line, but it is sure to spark your imagination.

First Draft: Then What?

#writetip Do you get to relax and celebrate when you finish a manuscript and are getting ready to send it to your agent or publisher? You probably deserve it, but if you’re anything like me, it’s time to get to the next activity.

Yesterday, I finished updating my 3rd novel, Burnt, based on comments from Garry Ryan. I’ve sent it off to be proofread, and now, I’m not going to look at it for a couple of weeks.

What am I going to do with my time?  Well . . .

  • Write a blurb
  • Write a synopsis
  • Figure out if Burnt is the best title for the novel
  • Update my website
  • Update the CWC website
  • Update my agent’s website (Margaret Hart at HSW Literary Agency)

And on and on it goes . . .

There is so much more to writing a novel than actually writing the novel.

Switching POVs

#writetip. I find reading novels with multiple POVs entertaining and enjoyable. So what’s the trick to writing multiple POVs. As usual, this is only my opinion, so here’s what I think.

If you’re going to have multiple POVs in your novel, it’s important to let your reader know this early on in the story.

I could be jarring for a reader to get half way through a novel, and the POV is ripped from underneath their feet and a new character steps in.

Changing POVs in the first few chapters will warn the reader this is your style and hopefully they’ll enjoy your book more. They’ll expect different characters to have their say, to drive the novel, and to provide surprises. They won’t get so attached to one POV that they can’t bear the change and toss the novel aside.

First Draft Readers

Am I nervous? #writetip Of course I am. I have a new reader for my third novel. I decided I needed someone to read my novel that hadn’t read the first two. So what did I do to prepare my reader? A reader has different responsibilities at each stage of the  novel.

For the first draft I give the reader a list of suggestions and questions.

1. Don’t worry about proofreading for typos. That will come later.

2. Each time you suspect a character of committing the crime, write it in the margin. This allows me to see if I’ve dropped too few or too many hints.

3. Did you start to skim anywhere? This is how I find out if I’ve put too much detail.

4. Are you unsure who is speaking? This means I didn’t add enough dialogue tags.

5. Sometimes a character doesn’t appear for a few chapters. When they reappear, do you remember who they are or do I have to add a reminder?

6. Is there anything you didn’t understand or that was confusing?

And finally I ask them to comment on any passages they liked. To me this is just as important as finding out what didn’t work. Then I can review that passage and understand why they liked it. Okay, and it’s a nice boost to the ego.