Tuesday, October 11, 2016

A Scene Does Not Make Your Book Great

I am always frustrated when I read a query letter, or even a published book when the author seems to be building the entire book around one small element. It might be a funny piece of dialogue or even a single scene in the book. While these elements are certainly great "story starters" or "writing prompts" these are not things that the entire story can be built around.

It is easy to come up with an idea and think "That would make a great story." You have the enthusiasm and the passion for that one idea and, for a moment, everything looks amazing. But here is the thing. That is all it is. It is just a small little idea. Trying to maintain that same level of energy throughout an entire book will likely not work out. It will get repetitive.

Let me give you two examples.

Think of that first time you "fell in love." Yes, I am putting this in quotes because the odds are, it really wasn't love but nothing more than a crush or an infatuation. In all likelihood, things just didn't work out. During those initial days, you probably created a complete reality leading all of the way through being married, having kids, raising the perfect family and so forth. But all of that really wasn't there. That entire world was built off of a brief encounter, maybe a great date, or maybe simply the looks of the other person. Trying to make that relationship work out just became difficult. In other words, you were forcing something that wasn't there.

Here is another one. This last Sunday, I was at church with my daughter. Our church is trying desperately to be like one of those mega-churches that feel more like a concert than a church service. In any case, they put up their "praise hymns" and off they go singing. But here is the problem. They have chosen songs with one verse and one chorus. And yet.... They sing that same pattern over and over again for what seems to be an eternity. In the end, you are simply worn out by the repetition. The reason? There wasn't much to work with in the beginning.

Look, everything you come up with for story ideas may not turn into a full novel. It might simply be a great scene to be used later. It might be something for a novella. And yes, it might be something that is just an writing exercise. I am not saying to not use these ideas. But I am saying, before you devote countless hours into forcing it into a novel, examine first if it is even possible.

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