How Do You Know When To Add (Or Delete) A Scene?

We recently had an excellent question. The question was, “Do you have to put a sex scene into a book?” What this person is really asking is, “How do you know when to add a scene to a book (or even delete it)?”

It really all comes down to the character. The main character (or characters as the case may be) is the key to the entire story. Everything needs to revolve around him. Everything you use in a scene, whether it’s in the setting or in dialogue or action, needs to advance the character’s journey. The journey starts when the character has a desire for something. The journey is complicated with conflict, and there can be a couple conflicts that pop up along the way. The journey isn’t complete until the character either receives his desire, which makes for a happy ending, or comes to realize he’ll never get what he wants, which makes for a sad ending.

So keep this in mind when you’re thinking about what to add or take out while you’re writing your book.

In the case of sex, does the character learn something new about himself or the person he’s with during the act of sex? In that case, put the scene in because this is where something new is added that will advance the character towards his goal. In the case of romance, sex is usually the stage where the hero and heroine are able to be vulnerable but also safe, and this can add very well to the advancement of the romance. The romance doesn’t have to be the main plot of the book. If you’re writing a fantasy and have a romantic subplot where the two realize they are falling in love during sex, this can work.

Sometimes we get so hung up on sex, we don’t think of other elements to add or not add in a book, such as violence. Let’s say you’re writing a thriller. The killer is a brutal man who shows no mercy. Well, how do you best show it? You have him do something like have our villain break some bones and cut out another person’s tongue. This is showing how bad our “bad guy” really is. That way, you’re showing it. This also advances the plot because the detective will want to stop this.

So when thinking about what to do with a scene, always keep in mind that the scene has to move the character one step forward–or somehow hinder–their goal. If the scene doesn’t do any of that, I would say it’s not necessary.

Categories: General Writing, storytelling | Tags: , , | 21 Comments

Authors Against Piracy Blog Tour

In a digital world, where content is turned into 1s and 0s, piracy has become an issue. As a consumer, one often reads about Warner Brothers or other studios “cracking down” on movie pirates, or music thieves. But how often does the average reader see anything about book piracy?

Before I was an author, I didn’t know book piracy existed. Sure, I knew there were places to “steal” movies, and TV, but it never occurred to me that there were people – or websites – stealing books. yet Piracy accounts for at least 12% of ebooks in the United States alone.  I’d bet that there are plenty of other readers (and maybe even authors) as naive as I was, people who have no idea that downloading that “free” PDF of a novel is stealing. To raise awareness of the book piracy epidemic, Maegan Provan is organizing an Authors Against Piracy Blog Tour. Just like with any awareness drive, she needs bloggers, and authors, who want to participate and draw attention to the issue by posting blogs. And what better way for authors to get people’s attention than by offering free ebooks?

“Say what? How is giving away my book for free going to stop pirates?”

It’s not. You can’t *make* people stop, anymore than you can singlehandedly cure cancer, but you can show them that a legally obtained version is better – the formatting isn’t messed up, all of the chapters are there and, even better, there are no viruses and no surprises. Besides, the point of the “giveaway” isn’t to fill pirates’ kindles, it’s to get people to share the links to the blog posts, because the more people clicking on those posts, the more people are reading about the problem, and the more people reading, the more people that are made aware of the issue, and just maybe those people who are made aware of what an issue it really is will be less likely to pirate in the future, or more likely to tell a friend or loved one who’s pirating to stop. Just as with Breast Cancer Awareness pins – wearing a pin doesn’t cure the problem, it just makes people aware that it IS a serious issue; it gets the conversation started, and that’s what Maegan is trying to do.

If you’d like to join her you can read further details on her blog and join the Facebook group. If you’re not interested in joining, or you can’t, no worries. You can always start that conversation your own way.

Categories: Uncategorized | 10 Comments

Saying No Can Be Your Best Business Move as a Writer

Today I’m going to a post on the business side of writing.  If this doesn’t appeal to you, feel free to skip.

I’m going to discuss how to maximize your income potential by saying no to those things that  get in the way of being able to do this.  Every time you say “yes” to an activity that doesn’t earn you money, you are saying “no” to something that will earn you money.

1.  Picking what to write.

The goal is to pair up what you love to write with what people are willing to buy.   The two don’t have to be exclusive.  Perhaps there are elements you enjoy that can work into a plot or genre that you’d either like to experiment with or are already selling better at.

For example, I started writing Regencies because I noticed those sold pretty well overall in romance.  I picked elements I already enjoyed (a marriage of convenience and a hero and heroine who didn’t initially want to be together) and wrote the romance in that time period.

Another example, I am quickly realizing that (for me) contemporary romances are not my better selling books.  I was thinking about writing a short story (which would have been about 15-20K words) to go along with a recently published contemporary that wasn’t doing as well as I’ve historically done.  But I realized I was about to spend time writing a short story in something that wasn’t doing so well when I could be using that energy into writing a historical western or Regency (which sell better for me).  So I made the decision to nix the short contemporary romance idea.  Why waste time on a project that you already know doesn’t have a good chance of succeeding when you could be spending the time writing something that might have a better chance?

I don’t know what the situation is for you, but hopefully, the two examples above can help you figure out where you can make the best use of your writing time.

2.  What activities to do.

Writing groups are great.  They can help us learn and grow as writers.  Some of my favorites are conferences which focus on writing fiction.  We want to grow as writers.  Writing compelling stories with emotionally engaging characters is still (in my opinion) the best use of our time.  But in order to do this, we need to keep learning the craft.  No matter how much you’ve improved, you can always do better on your next book.  You don’t want to stop growing.

But when you choose conferences and writing groups, you need a place that is safe.  You need to be able to be with people who are supportive, who care about helping you, who can also benefit from your experience, and who will build you up.

When you spend time around people who tear you down or make you feel like you’re inferior, this weakens your ability to be creative and it hampers your energy when you are trying to get out there and engage with others in a positive way.  I suggest staying away from these toxic situations.

3.  Non-writing Stuff

Yes, it’s good to have a life outside of writing.  You want to be a well-rounded individual.  But, if you are making it a habit of spending your time doing too much stuff that doesn’t make you money, you’re running into the danger of limiting your income potential.  It’s fine to take a break and spend the day with a friend.  It’s fine to set aside a block of time where you focus on your family.  It’s fine to catch up on a favorite TV show or do a hobby.

But if you want to make money writing, you need to write.  Some writers do make additional income by speaking and consulting others.  Some do cover work, formatting, or editing.  So you might want to focus on these areas more if they are your greater income stream than writing books.  This post, however, has been focusing more on the writer who makes the bulk of their income by selling their books.  Or if you want your main income stream to come from selling your books, then you will need to do whatever you can to focus the most time you possibly can on writing in addition to some marketing, but marketing can’t get in the way of writing.  The rule I’ve often heard is you need to focus 80% energy on writing and 20% on marketing when you are engaging as a writer in this business.  (That’s a ratio you can go by to gauge if you’re doing too much–or too little–marketing.)

I understand if you have a day job, it’s going to be harder to get as much written as someone who stays home all day and can write.  But I bet there is some area in your life you can give up in order to write more.  Even if it’s getting up an hour earlier to write on the weekends.  Or maybe you need to say no to your cousin who wants to go to another movie.  Or maybe do some writing or outlining during your break.  Or maybe giving up on reading a book so you can write one instead.


Closing thoughts

This all boils down to opportunity cost.  It means that you need to choose one option or the other.  You can’t do both.  Sometimes you have to tell yourself or people you care about in order to get your work done as a writer.  If making money writing books is a priority, you need to make it a priority.  It  must be first on the list.  You need to find time to get it in.  Otherwise, it won’t get done because other things keep popping up, and you will limit your potential to maximize your chances for making your dream a reality.  That’s not to say it’s a guarantee.  Nothing in life is a guarantee.  But you can increase your odds of winning if you say no to the right things.

Categories: Business Plan, Writing as a Business | 17 Comments

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