Guest blogger Colleen Cross on borrowing a screenwriting technique.
Like many writers, I start new books with a general idea, a rough chapter outline, and a vague idea of the ending. At the start it's fresh and exciting, and I'm sure I'll knock out a first draft in no time at all. Then, just as we reach double-digit chapters, disaster strikes. My characters hijack the story. Or, even worse, they go on strike, and steer me off the highway and onto that no-exit road called Writer's Block Hell.
How can they do this to me?
Thankfully, I read some screenwriting books. Syd Field's Four Screenplays and Blake Snyder's Save the Cat! offer great advice for screenwriters, and novelists can benefit too.
One idea made all the difference; I started to write in scenes. Modern stories are based on a three act story structure: the beginning, the middle and the end. I determine the three most important scenes for each act, and then write them. Now I've got nine scenes which form the main plot and provide the theme. I don't worry about what happens before or after these scenes, or exactly what order they appear in. I can fill those in later with smaller connecting scenes. I save each scene in a separate Word file, and then I knit them into my novel's first draft.
My characters haven't mutinied on me since I started using this method. They seem happier, and while I still give them free rein, they don't take over my story, or stop it. Writing in scenes is a little messier, but it frees me to be more creative.
Visit Colleen's website and blog at http://colleencross.com and read more about Exit Strategy, Book 1 in the Katerina Carter suspense series.
Dixon says: I had coffee with writing friend (and Amazon Top 50 reviewer) Roxanne McHenry the other day. She is excited about the first draft of her dark YA novel, which consists of a series of unconnected scenes. When she gets further along, she'll worry about whether the scenes are in the right order, and how to hook them together. An interesting approach - I'm not sure I'd have the courage to try it.