Scene by Scene

Something I’ve learned about my writing in the past three months that I really should’ve already known: it’s not about sitting down to write only when I’ve got all of the details figured out. It’s about writing until the details figure themselves out.

Each time I write a book I feel like I find a new process. It’s probably why I can’t answer any of those useful questions folks want answered about how to start and finish a book. My first novel was a piece unearthed from an ancient draft, reimagined and written beginning to end with more of a focus on feeling than on impact – and it shows. It’s damned rough in spots and I’m damned critical of it, but I can’t put it back in my brain. There’s no room.

The sequel necessitated an outline because there were questions I had to answer, but it was tighter and better paced because of it. It was still reworked in a pretty major way in less than six weeks in advance of a deadline, and as stressful as that was, I loved the experience. It was like tearing the stitches out of something and reweaving it with the same thread.


This story is one I have been playing with for about two years, supported by a number of conversations with my bestie and the best beta reader ever where I’ve felt it’s straightforward enough to just write without agonizing about it. But of course that’s exactly what I’ve done, because it’s what I do.

What’s surprised me most about this draft, though, is that I’m writing it scene by scene. Not necessarily in order, and not even one scene at a time. If I get stuck thinking on the next line of dialogue, I’ll switch to a scene earlier or later in the draft. If I’m not sure how to transition between one scene and another, I just don’t. I’ve forbidden myself pretty much every crutch I’ve come to rely on to not write in an effort just to get words on the page.

And it’s kind of working.

I wrote a lot of words in December and January – more than I’ve written in a longer time than I feel comfortable admitting. And I’m still writing. Some of them I am almost certainly going to trash, because they were the ideas I needed to work through to get to the ones worth keeping. There is nothing more daunting than an empty page, so I’m not giving myself the excuse of one. I can’t wait for you to meet these characters and explore this world. I’m one scene away from finishing a first draft for the first time in a long time, and that’s wildly exciting and surreal. Even knowing there are seams and gaps and holes and plotting pits of despair, I’m ready.

It’s going to be a bear to edit, but I like wrestling.