Writing Tips – Another Nevada Epiphany – Don’t Rush Out of a Scene

My mentorship with Ellen Hopkins through SCBWI Nevada continues to inspire, and teach me so much about writing and about the way I write.  I’m learning more about my own weaknesses – the things I have to watch out for – the mistakes I keep making with my writing.

I have realised that I have a tendency to rush out of a scene – to be in too much of a hurry to see what happens next for my characters, to not savour the moment and explore what’s happening in the ‘here and now’.

And I’ve come to realise that it’s one of the things that can cause me to tell and not show – that can leave my readers feeling a bit breathless.

IMAG4716Here’s what I mean.

EXAMPLE 1

This is a ‘scene’ from my verse novel, Hating Ric.  My character Kate has just come out of a coma and her best friend Abby is visiting.

My first version

A blonde girl walks in,
says she’s my best friend ,
Abby.

So why don’t
I know her?

ELLEN’S COMMENT:  Can this be a scene? Abby trying to talk to her about stuff she cant remember?

MY CONCLUSIONS:  I can’t believe I didn’t see this myself – that Abby WOULD try to talk to her best friend – and that there would be strong responses from both Kate and Abby. This is too big a moment in the story to gloss over.

IMAG4801My revised version

A VISITOR

Walks into my room smiling.
“Hey girlfriend
welcome back.”

She’s blonde and gorgeous
with a voice like
the rhythm of
the sea.

She sits on the
edge of my bed
leans over
to hug me.

I pull away
Do I know you?

Her eyes
look into mine
uncertain

IMAG4714a single tear
trickles down
her perfect
unscarred
skin.

“It’s me, Abby.”
She glances
across at
the nurse
who nods and
mouths
“Amnesia.”

Pain rips through
my neck
when I shrug.

IMAG4788The girl’s eyes flash
from the nurse
to me.
“I’m Abby.”

She repeats her name
as if that
will help me
remember.

She opens her wallet
and pulls out a photo
of
us
standing close
heads together
laughing.

In the photo
my skin is
perfect too.
no missing hair
or teeth.

I push the photo
and her hand
away
watch mesmerized
as another
single tear
slides
down
her perfect face.

EXAMPLE 2

In this scene, Kate is learning to walk again with her new leg, without using hand rails.

IMAG4962My first version

I get to share it
with Abby.

She’s here to see me
and can’t believe
how far I’ve come.

ELLEN’S COMMENTS: Can this be a scene?

MY CONCLUSIONS:  This really does need a scene to show the reader more about the relationship between the girls, Kate’s strength and Abby’s character.  It’s another important moment that I raced past in my original version.

My revised version

FAST TRACKED

to walking around the room
without rails.

I try increasing my
distance
and
pace
with
every circuit.

IMAG4954This morning
I’ve pushed it
as far
as I can
go

too far.

My good leg
collapses
under me
and I have to grab
onto a wall
to catch my balance.

There’s a gasp
behind me
and Abby rushes over
tries to help me
to a chair.

“No… I can do it.”
sweat trickles
into my mouth
and pools
under my arms.

“Kate, that
was amazing.”
Abby’s eyes
are shining.

IMAG4979I wanted to share the knowledge I’m gaining from this mentorship because we are often told we need to tighten our text, but sometimes we actually need to expand it and delve deeper, to draw the reader more closely into the story.

I hope you’ve find this post helpful. I’ll be sharing more from my amazing Nevada journey – and I’ll be going back there in April – can’t wait:)

Do you have any ‘bad writing habits’ that you have worked through? If so, feel free to share your experiences and solutions in the comments section of this post.

Happy writing:)

Dee

P.S. I’ll be talking about my mentorship at the SCBWI Victoria meeting on March 15. Might see you there:)


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20 thoughts on “Writing Tips – Another Nevada Epiphany – Don’t Rush Out of a Scene

  1. Wow, Dee. What fantastic examples and the reworks are so strong. It is a great reminder that writing tightly still requires writers to include everything required to take the reader on the journey.

  2. Thanks Vicki,

    I’m glad you liked the post. Sometimes in the torrent of words and moving forward with your manuscript it’s easy to inadvertently gloss over some of the important bits.

    I hope your writing is going well:)

    Dee

  3. Vicki, I concur. Dee it is not just the knowledge and know-how you share, it is how you impart it for us. Wonderful.

  4. We are so very fortunate to be able to feel and breathe the effects of the clear mountain air through you Dee 🙂

  5. This was an excellent post. I tend to rush through scenes too – in an attempt to see what will happen next and also if I’m a bit bored of writing a scene and want to get on with it…which is probably a sign the scene isn’t a very good one. Have a wonderful time in Nevada.

  6. Thanks Little Miss W:)

    I think sometimes I get bored in scenes too, but on reflection, I think it’s mostly because I haven’t delved enough to make them work.

    Thanks, I’m really looking forward to going back to Nevada.

    Dee

  7. Dee, I always take something useful from your posts. This week’s post was an important reminder not to always condense and tighten the writing, that sometimes it’s necessary to expand so that the reader becomes totally immersed in a scene. I’ll keep that idea in mind as I redraft my short novel. Thank you 🙂

  8. This was a really inspiring post Dee. Obviously Ellen’ mentoring is helping your text to shine. This is something I am guilty of too. I’m going to post-it note “Can this be a scene” next to my computer.

    Jeff

  9. Thanks for this very insightful post, Dee. Your expansion into scene examples worked really well to illustrate the added emotion and growth of relationships that can be gained when significant moments/realisations are shown in a scene. It also got me thinking that it could be why some of my chapters occasionally come across as episodic – through my not giving the character a chance to reflect on what’s happened in the next chapter and not expanding on the moment in pursuit of brevity. Sometimes the reader needs to see it happening. Look forward to catching up with you at SCBWI and hearing your talk on the 15th.

  10. Thanks Chris,

    That’s so true – and I notice this episodic feeling in my own writing when I haven’t explored the scenes enough and have moved on too quickly.

    Look forward to catching up on the 15th:)

    Dee

  11. I can certainly relate to this post Dee. I will be trying to delve deeper rather than gloss over as I have been guilty of in the past.

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