Sunday, August 21, 2011

Stuff Needs to Be Happening (notes)

This was the most recent piece of advice I received from an agent:

"Stuff needs to be happening."
It was in response to my first 100 pages, where I thought things were happening even though to an outside reader, they weren't.
So on Friday, I went through some novels and took notes.

How to Make Stuff Happen:

-This tip came from Laura: make scene cards (one card per scene) that lists a quick summary of the scene, the characters in it, and how it's moving the plot forward.

-In one of the books I went through, exposition didn't begin until the second or third chapter. When it did, it always related back to what was happening in the present.

-A character's subplots can be woven in through a single event (ex. She is having trouble with a co-worker and her marriage and deals with both at a work party)

-Conflict also comes in levels. There are overarching conflicts but each scene should have a mini conflict related to that larger one.

-Alluding to a secret keeps a reader interest

-Society can be as big of a character as anyone. It can provide pressure, expectations, and development.

How do you make sure things are happening in your work?


  1. Looks like you're well on your way, Saumya!

  2. The cards are a great idea! I have my outlines that keep track of what is going on in every scene (in a WORD doc), but I like the part: how it's moving the plot forward.

    I think I may insert that in there :)

  3. Congrats on the request for a 100 pages! I too have heard that scene cards are a good idea but never personally tried them. Do tell how it goes!

  4. You're getting somewhere with the request!

    A lot of first-time authors find out the real stuff doesn't start until the second/third chapter.

    Keep going!

  5. "a mini conflict related to the larger one" - that's one I need to give more thought to.

    I like to set up some broad conflicts with my outline before I get started, then see what sorts of conflict rise organically as I write, striving for some sort of tension on every page. which, interestingly enough, burns me out (in real life, I like to avoid conflict!!!) So I find I have to take considerable breaks from my writing! :)

  6. Congratulations on the request and getting some solid feedback - it's always so useful!

    This one's hard. It's very hard as a writer to be able to objectively look at your work. I always have trouble with 'passive' scenes where not much seems to be happening. It's something I have to rely on an outside perspective for.

  7. You got some great feedback. With all the research you are doing, you sure are on the right track.

  8. Now these are some helpful notes! I need to remember this. Before my last revision, I made a spreadsheet and went through each scene, making sure all that stuff was in each one. If not, delete.

  9. Fabulous....:-) Always good but you do know what you are doing. Remember that. xxx

  10. You might could use a good beta-reader to help you identify what you want to do with your work.