13.4.13

Linking Your Novel Together


As we wind down on Week 2 of the A to Z blogger's challenge, I find myself struggling through a severe head cold and trying to string two coherent sentences together. So for my "L," I came up with "links."

A well-written novel must be linked. And what do I mean by links? 

Well, if you think about the link of a chain, each one connects with two other links, one before and one after. The only two links which do not connect to two others are the beginning and end. But each link is soldered together to make running your hand over it smooth. 

For a novel, this means each scene is a link. And your entire story should be linked together so that it reads smoothly. It should have a beginning, a middle, and an end, all of which seamlessly flow into the other.

Each link serves its purpose to string the plot from beginning to end. No scene should be so abrupt that it causes the reader's attention to snag. Each scene should naturally follow the prior one. In other words, each scene needs to build on the information, characters, plot, themes of the one before. If a scene doesn't advance one or all of these, it might need to be revised or eliminated completely.

Each scene should: 

1. Establish when (time);
2. Establish where (setting);
3. Establish who (character or point-of-view);
4. Advance why we're reading (the plot);
5. Make it clear what the character(s) want;
6. Have conflict;
7. Start as late as possible in the action;
8. End as early as possible (think cliffhanger);
9. Transition us from the prior scene;
10. Transition us into the next scene.

A successful novel is one where the reader eagerly grabs a hold of the chain and, link-by-link, works his way from the beginning to the end. He isn't snagged at any one link, he doesn't stumble or want to put the book down. It's a difficult thing to do, but it's what every writer should aim for in their novel. (It's almost as difficult as making this metaphor work.)

~I.E.