Quote Originally Posted by job View Post
I'm going to echo some of the advice given above --

Read.

Read, not as a reader, but as a writer.

Go pick yourself up a couple of books by Nora Roberts and Jayne Ann Krentz. They should be available in your local used book store. Try for short books, something not as thick as your thumb.

Get out a set of highlighters -- yellow, red, green, blue etc.

After you've skimmed the book, go back and look at the first scene in Chapter Three. You're going to mark the beginning of the scene by drawing a pen line across the page.

What makes a scene? In general, a scene is in one setting; it deals with one problem or intention; and the main character of the scene is there from beginning to end.
When you go somewhere else and start doing something else or you switch to another focus character, you're in a different scene. Generally.

So. Mark the other end of the scene.
How long is it? (Pages in paperback average 250 words per page.)

I have a JAK in hand, Copper Beach. Chapter Three is one scene, a talking heads scene between the protagonist and a boat captain. It's seven pages which is roughly 1750 words.

One reason you're looking at the length of a scene is that a common problem with early manuscripts is the scenes are too short.

Next, you're going to do some marking.

Mark all the dialog -- the stuff inside quote marks -- in red.
Mark all internals -- that is, when we see the character's thoughts -- in blue.
Mark anything that shows movement of the body in space -- sit, turn, walk, light a cigarette, shoot somebody -- in green.
Mark description -- color, smell, placement of objects, landscape, shape of somebody's nose -- in yellow.

Anything that's concerned with stuff happening outside of the scene can be fuschia or whatever you have left. Sometimes this will be narrative intrusion of backstory. Often this out-of-the-here-and-now comes in internals. It's generally the writer talking to the reader, passing along information.

So if the character says, "That's a pretty flower," it gets marked in red.

If the character goes on to think, A rose. I wonder why she has roses on the table. Did somebody send them to her? It gets marked in blue.

If the character knocks the ash off his cigarette, it's green.

If the character then thinks, We had roses in the garden of the priory, when I was seven or I'm going back there someday to root them out of the ground or My mother was a great gardener or I could grow roses if I had to, that might be fuschia. It's not in the here-and-now of the story.

So if you start out with:
You end up with something like:


Look at how the 'parts of writing' work together.
NR and JAK are masters of balancing these elements.

After you've done a dozen scenes from NR and JAK, go back to some of your own work and apply those highlighters.
I went to a workshop by Margie Lawson that told people to do this.