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Thursday, July 11, 2013

Writing Ideas - How I Start a Novel Part 7, Sequence of and in Scenes

11 July 2013, Writing Ideas - How I Start a Novel Part 7, Sequence of and in Scenes

Announcement: My novels Sister of Light and Sister of Darkness are about to be published. I write this blog about 2 months prior to its publication. I just heard that the proofs will be here soon--likely before the end of the week. My publisher also wants to put the entire set of novels based on Aegypt on contract--that's 5 more novels for 8 total. They also want to put my other novels on contract. The release schedule should be one novel every 2 months. I'll keep you updated.

Introduction: I wrote the novel Aksinya: Enchantment and the Daemon. This was my 21st novel and through this blog, I gave you the entire novel in installments that included commentary on the writing. In the commentary, in addition to other general information on writing, I explained, how the novel was constructed, the metaphors and symbols in it, the writing techniques and tricks I used, and the way I built the scenes. You can look back through this blog and read the entire novel beginning with

I'm using this novel as an example of how I produce, market, and eventually (we hope) get a novel published. I'll keep you informed along the way.
Today's Blog: To see the steps in the publication process, visit my writing website and select "production schedule," you will be sent to

Here are my rules of writing:

1. Entertain your readers.
2. Don't confuse your readers.
3. Ground your readers in the writing.
4. Don't show (or tell) everything.

Sequence within and of scenes is an interesting question. What I mean by sequence is the time based formation of the action and of the scenes. This applies to time within the context of the novel as well as your writing. Let's take them separately. First, time sequence in and of scenes. You could experiment with non-sequential based time flow in a scene, but I don't do that. I do like to use scenes in some novels to go back into the past (potentially into the future), but I like to keep these separated as scenes. You don't have to, but one of my main concerns in writing is to not confuse my readers. As an aside, here are two of my main rules of writing: entertain your readers and don't confuse them. Scenes where the time or time sequence moves around will confuse your readers, so unless you really know what you are doing--don't. Likewise, you can take the reader to the past or future with a scene. You can have overlapping time between scenes, but use caution. This is where clear description is necessary. You have to ground your readers in the scene. Put that down as a basic rule too: ground your reader in each scene. For example, I do like to intersperse scenes that take the reader out of the main storyline into another storyline that parallels the plot. In Dana-ana,, this means following the action of other characters for a scene and then jumping back to the original storyline. Everything still supports the plot and the theme, it is just showing the reader new information from a different point of view (POV, point of view, is a whole other topic). As long as you don't confuse your reader, these segues are great for them. They build a level of excitement and at the same time make your readers long to get back to the main storyline. Here's an example:

[end of scene with Macintyres (Dana's adopted family) after she left--Dana is the she]“She left of her own free will. I don’t think she’s coming back.”

[Beginning of the next scene--double break to set it off. The first step is the setting]
Mata Hainsworth [already introduced in the novel earlier] leaned against the wall at the back of the Wellington Hotel. The fog was thick that evening. At his side stood two other men dressed in suits. One of them also carried a pouch at his side. He was short and had foxy features. The man with the pouch glanced around the corner of the building, “So Dana-ana made a blood vow to this boy.”

Mata laughed, “Yes she did. I heard every word. It seems her young man was already half convinced to dump her. My little confession just pushed him over the top.”

“She took it hard.”

“She’s in love, the little slut. It’s just as we hoped, she cast her blood when he released her and swore a blood oath.”

“So all we need to do now is tempt her little master to an accident, and she’ll do a death dance.”

The other man in the suit spoke up. He was very tall and broad shouldered. He seemed almost too large to be a normal person. His face and every other part of him that showed outside his clothing was very hairy, “You know it’s not as easy as that, Ailean. There are precautions we must take. Plus we need to lure them to a place she was restricted from—one of her ancient places of power. We must insure no interference from Ceridwen or the rest of the courts.”

“You are a spoilsport, Mahon.”

He held his nose and growled. The growl sounded distinctively animal-like, “And you two both stink so much of magic, you’re lucky I stick around to help you. I want to gag right now.”

“We all serve the same master, Mahon. You don’t have to get snotty.”

“Where is the girl anyway?”

Mata replied, “She’s searching for food in the bin on the other side of the building. That’s why I had us meet here.”

“Good, I don’t want her to ever detect us. She’ll smell you two a mile away. We have to prevent any interference from Ceridwen. She swore to protect Dana-ana’s life. Dana-ana must give up her life willingly, otherwise, Ceridwen becomes involved.”

Ailean nodded, “That’s been the plan all along. Tell us something we don’t know.”

Mahon stared at him and lifted a thick lip, “If our master allowed me, I’d crush you puny human.”

Ailean started to sweat, “Well he hasn’t, so tell us what the plans are.”

“We are arranging a conflagration. We only want to target Dana-ana through the boy. That’s the difficult part. The details are still being attended to.”

“Will there be a place for magic?”

“Yes, very much. It will be a necessary part of the planning.”

“Good. When we get our revenge, Dana-ana needs to know just who pulled the trigger. That’s what will make it sweet. She must die slowly, very slowly. It would be best if while she did, the stink of magic would gag her, and she would drown in her own vomit.”

“Our master would like that very much. Perhaps it can be arranged.”

“It might be pleasant for her to be ravished just prior to the event.”

“You ask for too much, Mata. If she were ravished, that would surely bring Ceridwen and Dana-ana’s sisters down on our heads. You do not want that, I assure you.”

“Perhaps we could get the boy to do it. Ailaen’s skill is seduction magic.”

“That might be useful, but don’t plan too much. We are just putting the details together now. The most important part was her blood oath.”

“You figure out how to get them alone together, and we’ll ensure the boy rapes her.”

“I’ll warn you only once. Whatever you do, do not let it cause a failure of our plans. Our master wants her dead. That will roil the courts and Ceridwen. You want revenge. All our goals align with her death. If she doesn’t die, no one will be happy, especially our master.”
[End of scene-double break]

[Return to the main plot line]
On Wednesday, as Gwen left the hotel, she caught a glimpse of Dana. She grabbed her mother’s arm, “Mom, Dana’s following us.”

The above is an example of somewhat parallel storyline scenes. The the scene is separate and gives the reader a glimpse of what is happening outside of the knowledge of the major characters. This is a very effective method to build tension and excitement. Note the beginning of both scenes, the main one I show you and the beginning of the next, firmly ground the reader right away. A single sentence or paragraph is all that is necessary, but it is necessary.

Now the second part, about writing your scenes non-sequentially. Sometimes you might be tempted to write one of the most exciting scenes that you envisioned in your scene outline before you get to it in your writing. In other words as you are writing your novel, you might want to write some of the more exciting parts of it first and get to the rest later. That might work for some, but I advise you--don't do it. Don't do it for two reasons. First, if certain scenes aren't exciting to you, they won't be exciting to your readers. Second, I've found that the few times I've done this, I had to completely dump or revise the whole chapter or scene. The reason is that writing a novel is a process, the characters and your understanding of the plot grows with the writing. Usually when I finally write up to the point I already wrote, the circumstances of the input and sometimes the scene output have changed and the characters and plot have subtly changed. The previous writing of the scene is stale or out of place, and I have to completely write it again. This is what I explained about on Centurion The short story I originally wrote that to a degree spurred the novel could not fit at all into the novel. The characters were different and the circumstances (inputs and outputs) were different. So my advice is to not write out of sequence, but this is not a rule for everyone. Plus, if you do write in time sequence, you can later move the scenes around, if necessary, to fit the way the plot demands--if you need to. Tomorrow, I'll talk about more subtle means to work with your characters in scenes. 

See more writing secrets at

For more information, you can visit my author site, and my individual novel websites: http://www.aegyptnovel,,,, thefoxshonor, aseasonofhonor.

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