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Last month, about 400,000 people were estimated to have participated in National Novel Writing Month. Among them, about 40,000 were crowned as “winners” by finishing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.
That’s a lot of first drafts!
Many of those NaNoWriMo writers are now preparing to review the words they left on the page. Some of their scenes may feel alive. Others may appear dead on arrival.
So how do you perform a simple health check to assess the potential of each scene?
Fortunately, you don’t need to focus on everything during your first pass. Get started with your scene analysis by asking yourself these easy questions:
1) Does each scene have just one Point of View (PoV) Character?
If not, update the appropriate scenes because head hopping is not recommended inside a single scene.
The pov character should only change when a scene transitions to a new scene. (Keep in mind one chapter may included multiple scenes. Usually a series of asterisks or extra spacing is applied to indicate scene breaks within the same chapter.)
2) Does each scene somehow connect to my original idea, premise, and/or theme?
If not, are you okay with your edited message for the world? Maybe it’s worth making sure every scene makes a difference?
3) Does each scene somehow connect to my protagonist’s overarching story goal?
If not, how can you improve each scene in each act to properly set up your protagonist’s overarching story goal that will showcase their transformation from beginning to end?
4) Would my overarching story be hurt if I cut this scene?
You must leave out your characters’ mundane, ordinary, and boring parts because readers only want their most dramatic, extraordinary, and exciting moments.
5) Does each scene have a connection to my antagonistic force?
If not, the primary conflict created by your antagonist may not be felt throughout your overarching story. Your antagonistic force should loom over near every scene.
6) Does each scene excite or entertain me in any way?
If not, how will you stay motivated to draft this scene during the writing process? Better yet, how will you expect readers to be excited or entertained if you’re not?
7) Do my key story events, major turning points, align with any of the guiding principles found in Master Plot Diagrams?
If not, it’s okay. They’re principles, not rules.
Your plot milestones scenes do not have to land anywhere inside the recommended locations of master plot structures. However, there’s no doubt honoring a simple three-act structure can help build a cohesive story arc, pace scenes, deliver big payoffs, and satisfy reader expectations.