Scene and Structure Redux

I haven’t posted in a while because I haven’t written in a while. I’ve blown my December 2011 date; my 1000 days of writing will conclude somewhere in 2012. The majority of my thinking makes this a good thing more than a bad thing. The quality and volume of what I’d been writing prior to my semi-purposeful hiatus was both low and low. I put the blame for that and the hiatus on my day job.

Instead of diving in, I’ll be sitting on the edge with my feet getting used to the temperature of the water first.

I’m re-reading that Scene and Structure book by Jack M. Bickham. Once again the specificity of his writing instruction resonates with my desires for knowledge. The most concrete analogy I can make involves lumber. If I think about my skills as a writer, I feel comfortable sanding the plank of a story to a glossy sheen. So comfortable, I’m sure I wear the thing to a sliver in places. Bickham’s instructions provide me with guidelines for placing the cut marks to break the plank into appealing lengths, suggestions for when to use a dovetail and when to do a mitre, and some third woody thing I can’t think of right now since I’ve not completed the re-read.

Some would find the thrust of his book too prescriptive, possibly to formulaic. The programmer in me finds it tangible and usable. And I know enough about writing code to know that there are several ways to accomplish the same outcome. I know that guides and rules and restrictions can be a harness which helps the horse pull the cart not a hobble which leaves her prey to wolves.

The last book and a half I read got me to thinking about scenes and how many one needs to include in a novel length book. Yesterday evening Bickham made an aside about the number of scenes needed in a book and how this high number often confounded new writers. He said that in his experience students had far too few scenes necessary for a novel and as a result those students padded their scenes to reach novel word counts. By doing so, they killed the pace of an otherwise engaging plot. I know I’ve not given enough thought to how much stuff goes into a novel. I wouldn’t have guessed the real risk of having too few scenes was bloat over brevity.

407 words on day 781