Writing Books/I'M STUCK!

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QUESTION: I'm writing my first novel and I'm stuck. I'm trying to figure out how to start my next event, without starting a new chapter? I need your help please :)

ANSWER: Susan, can you reply with more information?  This doesn't give me much to go on.  What, exactly, is causing you to feel stuck?  Are you having trouble just transitioning between scenes?

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: I'm 15 years old and I've been having the idea of writing a novel for the longest, I'm on chapter 2 and done with the first scene.I just don't know how to start my next scene without starting a new chapter.I hope it's enough information for you to help?

Answer
Susan:

Okay, so you essentially have two ways to go between scenes.  But before I go into the types, it's good to determine what you're changing.

The gap between one scene and the next indicates a change, and that change can be one of time, location, viewpoint, or any combination of these things.  Usually, it's time; often, it's time and place.  But the purpose often dictates the type of transition you need.

You're correct in your assumption that a new chapter is an effective way to do the transition. Readers automatically expect (and for good reason) a change in time, place, or perspective when they get to a new chapter.  (And if you don't have one of these, I'd question why there's a new chapter!)

But obviously there are transitions needed that don't require a new chapter, and here's where you have a decision to make.  On the one hand, you may have a very quick jump.  For example, let's say you have a scene that ends with your character heading off to school in the morning. There's nothing you particularly need to write about her day at school, so you want to skip all that and resume when she gets home.  Your transition could very easily be something like, "After another mind-numbing day of classes, Molly returned home."  You've jumped ahead several hours in the day, very easily.  And sometimes, this is all you need.  Because nothing heavy is going on.  You just need to jump ahead in time.  Or to a different place (like "Meanwhile, back at the ranch...").  Or a different perspective, such as switching to another character's point of view.  (Note, this should always be done in a new scene; don't switch to another one within the same scene.)

But sometimes you need something different.  Something with more substance.  And this is where narration comes into play.  Let's say, for example, that you have a scene where something big happens.  Something that really affects your character.  Your transition, now, is a great place for you to have some introspection... some time for your character to reflect on how these events have affected her, how she's going to deal with it.  In other words, a "stop and think" period.  

To give you an example of this, let's go back to Molly's school scene.  Let's say your character has just had another massive argument with her mother. In a case like this, we don't want to do a simple deal where she goes to school and we resume when she gets back.  We want to show - briefly - how the fight affects her during the school day.  So it could be something like, "Molly sat through class after class, hearing little her teachers had to say. Every time one spoke, all she could hear was her mother's accusing voice. She lost her temper with her friends and even smashed her finger in her locker, so distracted was she. By the time she got home, Molly wanted nothing more than to crawl in bed and ignore the world."

Obviously, if the situation warrants it, there could be considerably more to that.  But it's a way to give some good introspection and possibly some character development while moving between scenes.

Hope that's helpful for you!

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Vincent M. Wales

Expertise

I am a speculative fiction novelist (fantasy, science fiction, and so on). While I may be able to answer questions on non-fiction, my specialty is fiction. Please keep that in mind when asking questions.

Experience

For four years, I taught a series of fiction writing classes in Sacramento, CA.

Education/Credentials
BA in fiction writing.

Awards and Honors
My 2004 novel, ONE NATION UNDER GOD, won BEST FICTION in Fresh Voices 2006, BEST FICTION and BEST YA FICTION in the NCPA Book Awards, and placed as a finalist in BEST BOOKS 2005. In 2002, my novel WISH YOU WERE HERE won awards for Best Fantasy and Best Fiction/Drama in the 8th Annual SPA Awards. My latest work is a trilogy titled THE MANY DEATHS OF DYNAMISTRESS (a superhero memoir). The first book, RECKONING, was released in 2013 and won the SF category in the 2014 San Francisco Book Festival, took second place in the 2013 Royal Dragonfly Book Awards for the SF/Fantasy/Paranormal category, second place in the SF category of the 2013 Reader Views Reviewers Choice Awards, and was finalist in Foreword's 2013 Book of the Year Awards, Fantasy category. The second book, REDEMPTION, will be released in early 2015 and the final book, RENAISSANCE, is scheduled for release in late 2016.

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