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This is sustainable writing---a way to succeed by creating good, long-term writing habits. Relax and enjoy writing again.


Writers dream of writing a novel, becoming famous and making a lot of money. And it's true that first time writers have succeeded with their first novel. It can be done. Submitting the work to the right place at the right time, and having the right person read it is all it takes. Simple? Absolutely not.

When I see a new writer announce that he's writing a novel, I admire him—then I sympathize. He has a rocky mountain to climb. It can be done though, as long as he's prepared himself by learning and practicing good writing skills. It's hard work.

Breaking it down to the lowest denominator could help the writer who is learning the craft. I've heard that even experienced writers work this way, especially if they're working on contract. You know, putting out a lot of genre stories for one publisher.

A novel is nothing more than a series of scenes, a series of significant events. It’s just that the most important scene, the most significant event doesn’t play out until the last third of the book. Writing scenes is writing a novel--one step at a time.

Do you catch the drift of where I'm going? Yeah—flash fiction. Scenes.

Start with writing the theme of your book at the top of a notebook.  An example of a theme: Love conquers Evil.

If you think of sub-themes, write those down too, Depending on the length of the project, three to six are standard. You can have more of course, it's your story, but keeping too many sub-plots interweaving smoothly could prove difficult.  Problems of sequence and continuity often appear when juggling too many; just be aware so you can look for it during revision.

Write down what the book is about in a very short paragraph.
Vampires fight for equal rights and at a terrible cost brings freedom to their world.

Write down the main characters info. Their goals, quirks, etc., and a paragraph of no more than 250 words describing the story.

Remember the blurb on the back of a paperback?  You need to know where you're going and what you hope to accomplish. You should have this information clearly in mind to keep your stories/scenes on track and in focus.  If you can write the blurb before you begin writing the story--you're on your way!  You know what you want to write about and you have a plan.  Good job!


If you're in the first stage you might not have this information yet.  In fact--you probably won't.  Free writing the ideas in story form will help bring them out.  Let your imagination do its job, then you take over during the rewrite.

Each scene is complete.   Think of each scene as a flash story.  One problem, few characters, a decision or climax, and a resolution.

A scene is a block of text without which the novel will not stand. Do you doubt this? Pick up a popular book and study it, one scene at a time. It contains everything that a novel has to have, but in miniature.  Scenes carry sub-plots along in their crooked path sequence, intertwining back and forth among scenes of the main plot which travels a straighter road.


1.  A scene has a start, a purpose, and a clear ending.  

2,  It engages at least one and sometimes all five senses, conflict, and a definite point of change.

3.  It takes place in one time and in one place.

4.  It's interesting and holds the readers attention, but it doesn't always have to be action-filled.  use scenes:  as transitions between battles, locations,  as time for the characters to get to know each other, for flashbacks, to slow the pace to give the reader breathing space between battles.

5.  It's usually written from only one point of view.


It may be simple narration or description and very short,  but it will be complete and without it, the story will not progress smoothly.

You may have one or several scenes per chapter. They may be as short as a paragraph, or as long as thirty pages. However, time and place will not change within the scene. A scene in any type of writing isn't a scene until something changes; and once something changes, it's time to move to a new scene.

A novel can be written as a series of flash fiction stories that are connected by theme and plot with the most important event in the last third of the book.

Sub-plots can be written in the same way. Writing each as separate scenes will help keep them from conflicting with each other and the main plot. Sub-plots will follow their own path, separate from the main plot, but their paths will intersect and zig-zag. Everything will move the story forward to the climax. Sub-plots will climax and conclude first, then the main.

Working on subs separately also keeps the writer from forgetting about one and failing to end it properly. Readers won't forget, they'll want to know whatever happened to so & so way back there.

So you see—flash fiction is one of the most versatile genres of creative writing. You can enter the shortest story contests or write a novel. The complexity of the plot is up to you. Just because it's called flash doesn't mean it's simple.

If I were going to enter Nanorimo this year, I would probably write it by scenes. It would be so much easier to stay focused, and with less stress than tackling a 50,000 word novel. I'd have the same number of words to do, but my mind can handle one scene at a time. This is sustainable writing---a way to succeed by creating good, long-term writing habits. Relax and enjoy writing again.