Last night, after my writers group, I sat outside at a bar with fellow group member Michael J. Sullivan and explained in great detail the trouble I was having with my novelette. “I have three scenes,” I told him, “that are clear in my mind. The opening scene, a key scene near the middle of the story, and the climactic scene toward the end. My problem is that I can’t make the scenes connect.”
For the next two hours, we drank Guinness and talked through the various problems I felt I was having. Michael kept telling me that there was no problem, that I had the beginning, middle and ending, all the parts were there. But I wasn’t connecting the dots very well. But he was patient and we continued to talk about it, through one glass of beer and then another.
I went home and I slept on it. I couldn’t get the story out of my mind as I lay down to sleep. I began to realize that part of the problem I was having was not clearly connecting the dots for myself. With a short story, I typically do this by jotting down a few words for each key scene in the story. But this novelette is bigger. There is a more complex background and a few words on three different scenes wasn’t cutting it for me. My mind turned it over as I fell asleep.
When I woke up this morning I was still thinking about it. I was processing it in the background, which is always a good sign for me. And by the time I sat down for lunch, with the March 1941 issue of Astounding in my lap, the results were ready to emerge. As I started reading the Malcolm Jameson story in the issue, it suddenly occurred to me how the second scene in my novelette needed to go. So I set down the magazine and jotted down some notes. That led naturally into the third scene, and from there I could see the fourth scene.
All told, I jotted down a few sentences for each of 16 scenes that make up the story. Each of these scenes, in my mind, contribute just the right elements to the story, keep the plot moving forward, while at the same time, build tension and tell a larger, overarching story. The first scene is the first scene I’d had in mind all along. The sixth scene is the second scene I’d mentioned above, and the thirteenth scene is the climactic scene of the story. And now I had the stepping stones between those three key scenes as well.
This evening, I transferred that abbreviated outline into Scrivener so that I could see each scene as a separate document. I added nearly 1200 words to the story and I am eager to move onto the next scene. I was going to jump into it right now, but it is getting late (for me) so I’ll save it (and possibly the next one) for tomorrow.
I think I finally have this story figured out. See what happens when you can just chat with another writer about your problems over a beer? Thanks, Michael!