Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Further slicing: sequencing your story

When you’re writing, there are tools and tricks that will help you sail through this vast chaotic ocean that’s a first draft.

Slicing your story into comprehensible and clear segments known as "sequences" is one of the important tricks I learned as a student of the late Frank Daniel.

Frank Daniel thought that any story could be divided in smaller units that carried their own coherent dramatic spine.

Sequences are like the building blocks of your story. I like to think of them as "mini-stories" with their own conflict and resolution.

Each sequence's resolution creates the situation which sets up the next sequence, moving the story forward. Basically, it means that when you start working on your story, instead of sailing off into an endless ocean of situations and words, you step out into a carefully mapped collection of short stories.

Each short story will be a single coherent step in the full journey of your character.

Personally, I like to divide all my projects into 8 “mini-stories” of about 5 to 10,000 words each (an arbitrary habit I developed while working as a scriptwriter - but the number of sequences needed to tell a story really depends of the particularity of any given project.) 

All my “mini stories” play an essential part in my manuscript, but I write them as if they stood alone.

What’s the point in that?

It allows me to ignore the fact that I’m sitting down to write a daunting 80,000 + words novel.


Divide your work into smaller pieces. Drive your character from one resolution to the next. And you will be right as rain.

And if your goal is to write the next Great American Novel – plan your work as if you were writing the Great American Collection of Short Stories ;)

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