Monday, March 10, 2014

Episodic Writing Revisited

Missy Tippens, here. Since so many of us are busy writing away for Speedbo, I thought I'd take this opportunity to repeat a post I wrote in 2012. You'll see that it includes photos from the Southern Kentucky Book Fest from 2012. The 2014 event is coming up soon, April 26th! I won't be there this year, but if you're nearby, be sure to check it out.

As we head into our second full week of Speedbo, let's think about how we approach each new scene…



Battling Episodic Writing in a 30-minute (or 1-Hour) TV Show World
By Missy Tippens
Original version posted August 20, 2012



Missy, here, talking about episodic writing today, and also sharing photos from the 2012 Southern Kentucky Bookfest. I know we’ve already had fantastic posts on the topic of episodic writing. One by Cheryl Wyatt sharing input from her editor, Melissa Endlich. And another from Janet Dean where she touched on the problem in her post about scene and sequel.

Though I honestly think I’m doing better, episodic writing is still something I’m working to avoid. I hope you don’t mind going along for the ride as I try to figure out why this is a problem with so many writers.

First, what is episodic writing? Have you ever gotten feedback from an editor or agent or contest judge with this term? According to Cheryl (via Melissa), it’s “…when one scene happens then another and another and so on but there is really no point to the scenes. They end up trumping the overall story arc but do nothing to move the plot forward.”

Missy Tippens signing beside Allie Pleiter with Virginia Smith in the background .

My own take on it is that you end up with episodic writing when you write lots of fun, cute, interesting, scary, exciting (or whatever type) scenes and string them together into a story. The problem is, they often don’t have much to do with the overall story arc or with advancing the plot.

And I think one of the reasons we tend to do this is because we live in a culture where we spend a lot of time in front of the TV. (I know there are probably those of you who don’t watch TV at all. But I still think the majority does watch at least one favorite show a week.)

Ann Gabhart and Allie Pleiter
Okay, time to admit how many shows you watch or record/DVR each week. I admit I have several that I DVR and watch late at night. There are some, like Project Runway or MasterChef, that probably don’t affect the flow of my writing. But when I thought of others, like Castle, Pretty Little Liars (a big weekly event my daughter and I share), Grey’s Anatomy and Parenthood, I realized how the flow of these episodes (key word!) could affect my writing.

Lori Copeland and Missy Tippens

On the one hand, these type shows are great for teaching how to write a fantastic scene or chapter hook. Just think how long the week between episodes seems! (Who else out there is about to DIE for the next season of Castle to find out what’s going to happen?)

But these shows tend to have the main character dealing with one problem each week, solving it, and then possibly leaving you with a new problem introduced or a hint at what’s to come. The thing is, there may not be much of an overall season-long story arc. Each episode is stand-alone. And that can be a real problem in our writing.

Trish Milburn and Missy Tippens

So how do we battle episodic writing in a world where we watch weekly episodes of our favorite TV shows? Here are some of my tips:

--The most logical way would be to watch less TV and read more. :) I’m smiling but serious. The more we read, the more we “soak up” the natural flow of storytelling.

--Use the basics from The Moral Premise: Harnessing Virtue and Vice for Box Office Success by Stanley Williams. You can read Dr. Williams’ guest post on our blog by clicking here for a brief explanation. I’ve found his work has been influential in helping me make sure all my scenes relate to the premise and that they serve the purpose of tying in to progress toward the overall story arc.

--Make sure your main character has a story-long goal that she has to achieve and that she’s taking some sort of step to pursue it in each scene. Not only does this help with story drive, but it also helps make your character active and not just reactive.

--Also, make sure the conflict (the obstacles to her goal) get worse as the story progresses. This assures you have escalating conflict. I usually make a list of all the ways she can fail to reach her goal and then order them from mildest to worst.

--Make sure your story has a sense of drive, of moving forward. This is related to the previous tip. But I like to check this using action and reaction. My main character takes a step toward her overall story goal. Some obstacle stands in her way, so she reacts by making a new decision or plan of action. Then repeat. (I even create an action-reaction chart to check myself on this to make sure my character is always proactive.)

--Don’t fall into the trap of feeling like your story needs to move chronologically like you do in living normal life. If you end one scene at bedtime, don’t feel like you have to open the next scene at the breakfast table the next day. Think more in terms of what your character’s next step is in achieving her goal rather than in terms of a clock or calendar.

Alecia Whitaker and Missy Tippens

So now it’s your turn. Share what shows you like to watch regularly. :) And also what you do to make sure your writing isn’t episodic.

Heather Graham and Missy Tippens
I hope you’ll visit me at www.missytippens.com and sign up for my quarterly newsletter. I’d also love to hang out with you here:


142 comments:

Marianne Barkman said...

Welcome, Missy. The more books I read for review, the more I can tell which authors have good editors or critiques. Wish I could send some of the writers to Seekerville without offending them! Thanks for the post. And here's to wishing those doing Sppedbo....a successful week! Praying for you!

Helen Gray said...

Coffee's ready.

Thanks for the reminders, Missy.

Have to bring out the "episodic writing" police and have them do a search and seizure every now and then.

Dianna Shuford said...

Hi, Missy! I'm up late babysitting so I thought I'd go ahead and read your post. Great thoughts. I haven't ever heard of "episodic writing" before. Although I do try to make sure that each scene has a specific goal-for the hero or the heroine-that ties into the final over-arcing goal of the story.

In my free time, I do prefer to read vs. watching tv. As far as TV shows, I mainly watch reruns when I have time for it. Comedies are my usual choice.

Enjoy the coffee everyone. This night owl is going to bed...

Missy Tippens said...

Thanks for the writing prayers, Marianne!

And Helen, thanks for the coffee! I'll take decaff. LOL on the episodic police. I need to be have them search every mss before I hit send to my editor! :)

Missy Tippens said...

Dianna, I've had to correct it in a few of my proposals and manuscripts. So I'm very aware of it! :)

It sounds like you have a good handle on the scenes goals.

I DVR most of my favorites and catch up at night and on weekends.

Emily Neyer said...

Missy--What a great post and just what I need as I delve into this new world of writing for adults. I write on a regular basis for my first graders, but this is a whole new ball game for sure. I have about 7K words in my very first manuscript and I love reading all of this information before I get so far in that I have to make massive changes. I do have a scene in my very first chapter that I think is episodic, but I think I will save it for later and use it to advance my plot. I know there is a jewel in that scene that will help with my story.

And I know that the post was an older one, but I love the list of shows. I am a Castle, Bones, Greys Anatomy lover. And while I love them, the part of the stories that keep me coming are the ones that go on and aren't solved in one episode. (Did you watch Castle last week? AMAZING!!! And it isn't over!)

Back to my story. Girls, I am INSPIRED!!!

Sally Shupe said...

Thanks so much for this timely post! Now to go check my writing. Thanks for the pointers, links, and examples. Going to apply them to the story I'm writing. Thanks!
I don't watch much tv, mostly just Judge Judy and then I do a lot of reading. Love your books Missy!

Carol Moncado said...

Go Emily!!!!

We, uh, won't talk about how many shows I DVR...

But I think this is something, overall, I'm good at. Or at least mostly. Not to say there's never any scenes where it's like 'um... what does this have to do anything?' but I think it [mostly again] comes fairly natural to me. I sort of instinctually think about what the point of it is and how does it get the characters closer [or farther] from their goals.

Even if I don't always use those terms in my head :).

Melanie or Christina may choose to contradict me... [or Emily since she's actually read three manuscripts though not necessarily for critting... :D]

Cathy Shouse said...

Thanks for the reminder, Missy. I watch very little TV other than Shark Tank but I struggle with the emotional arc, if there is such a thing. Lol

Missy Tippens said...

Nice job on the word count, Emily N.!!! Definitely hang on to that scene! One thing my editor has had me do before was just beef up a scene. And like you said, maybe you could use it later as well. I keep a file for each book where I put cut scenes and parts of scenes. Then I can go back and get them later if I want (which I've done a couple of times). :)

YES ON CASTLE!!!!! Oh my goodness. That episode was so tense I thought I wouldn't be able to sit still to watch it. I have a feeling they'll continue that thread through the whole series. Whenever they decide to quit making new episodes (sob), they'll wind up that plot in the last season. VERY COOL!

Missy Tippens said...

Thanks, Sally! I hope the tips help in your story.

Missy Tippens said...

Carol M., our DVR memory is just about full (on HD quality)! We fight over space. LOL I think I'm going to have to pay extra to use a flash drive plugged into the box so we'll quit having to erase things.

Missy Tippens said...

Cathy, I definitely think there's an emotional arc. I have to work to make sure I pace myself on that one. I tend to start them off falling in love too quickly!

I catch Shark Tank sometimes and really enjoy it. Saw the end of one episode the other night. I missed the product intro, but it looked like pants for crawling infants that had squeakers in the knees??? Maybe so you could keep up with your child? I wasn't sure. But the Sharks were pretty rough on the couple. :)

Emily Neyer said...

I started with 6700 and some change this evening and now I am at 8300 and I am forcing myself to go to bed because I am starting to fall asleep at the computer.

You wonderful ladies have created a monster!!! I LOVE IT!

Carol Moncado said...

I'm totally dragging you to conference, Emily ;).

SQUEEEEEEEEEEE!

Tina Pinson said...

I think, over time I've gotten better about moving the story along without so many episodes. although I'm still working on it.

Is there ever a time when episodic writing is necessary. Or is it something different, I'm thinking about?

to explain

One of my stories I used more scenes that might not seem to move the story, but the nature of the story was all about the journey they were on as well. So more things took place and happened.

If that makes sense.

Anyway, thanks for the post and the reminder to keep moving the story along.

I like to DVR shows just so I can watch them and zip through the commercials. Amazing how much time is saved. But I don't DVR much.

And the funny thing is… I DVR a show to stop the commercials and find myself watching them anyway a few times during the show.

If I get to reading, I'm voracious. I go on a reading binge and get little else done til the reader beast in me is sated.

It's rather sad and I get little else done. So I have ween myself and stay away from the library and Amazon so I won't get a book and try to get some writing done.

:-)

Jackie said...

Hi Missy,

Castle, NCIS, and The Middle are the three shows I record and watch every week. I've lived in the world of men so long, that if a good game is on TV on a Saturday that I work, I record it and we watch when I get home. (UK Basketball and UGA Football) Pitiful, right?

My husband was out of town last week, and I rarely had the TV on. One of the hardest lessons I've had to learn was to cut out cute scenes that don't advance the plot.

I appreciate you sharing today. Hurrying to finish my story, it's easy to write a scene that doesn't add anything to the big picture.

Have a great day!

Sandra Leesmith said...

Great post MISSY and a topic I always need to work on. Thanks for sharing that again.

Happy speedbo writing everyone.

Rose said...

Great information and reminders. If I'm making a time transition or switching gears in a scene, I try to pull it together with thoughts about the last conversation before I go on with the new scene.

Missy Tippens said...

Yay, Emily!! And yes, Carol, you need to persuade her to go to conference! :)

Missy Tippens said...

Tina P, if I'm understanding your question...
If you're wanting to show the the journey, then I think you might want to look at those scenes and figure out a way to beef them up a little. Maybe you could use more internal goals and conflict. Is there something the character wants while on that journey? Growth or courage or acceptance…

Or maybe one character wants to get to know the other one better. Something happens that shows that. Could you do that kind of thing?

Missy Tippens said...

Tina P, also meant to say that I love being able to skip commercials! Every time I get to live TV now, I find myself getting irritated. LOL

Missy Tippens said...

Jackie, we do the same thing. Record games. Then we avoid twitter and FB and text messages so we don't get spoilers! :)

Yeah, I've had to cut those scenes, too.

One warning! On my past manuscript, I went too far in the opposite direction! And it made it choppy. I had to go back and add some transitions.

Missy Tippens said...

Thanks, Sandra! I've been enjoying the photos you posted on FB yesterday. Gorgeous!

Missy Tippens said...

Rose, it's a good idea to add those transitions. I have to watch, though, that I don't make it like a travel log or journal entry as I open up each new scene (ie. The next day, Early the next morning, Later that day…) My cp's have had to point out those spots when they get too frequent. :)

Missy Tippens said...

I've brought y'all some cheese toast for breakfast. We don't want to eat too much sweet or we'll be sluggish for Speedbo today!

Y'all be sure to report in during the day. I'd love to hear how it's going.

I'm continuing with revisions on a proposal today. Am almost finished!

Kav said...

Great repost, Missy. I think I learned about treating each scene like a mini story to make sure that it drives the overall story forward at Seekerville. Keeping that in mind does help me stay on track...sort of...:-)

I watch Castle, Blue Bloods and Once Upon a Time without fail.

Jeanne T said...

It was good to read this again, Missy. Don't throw tomatoes at me, but I don't watch much tv beyond the occasional sports game. I probably should find a favorite show just to see some other great aspects of story. But.....I can't seem to find the time. :)

For episodic writing, I hope I'm not doing it. :) I try to make sure the scenes tie in with each other. And that they move the story forward.

Thanks for sharing this again!

kaybee said...

Good post Missy. These are mistakes I made as a new writer (versus whatever the heck I am now). I put something in just because I liked it. Learned a lot about character and story arc since then. My crit partner is really strong on structure and gently points the way...
My husband and I are re-watching "Lost." That's the antithesis of most broadcast TV and has actually been an inspiration to me as a writer, in the way they develop character and keep the plot moving.
I watch "Downton Abbey" when it's in season, "Nashville" (guilty pleasure), and "The Middle" (I SO Identify with Frankie), "Last Man Standing" and "The Neighbors." Also some retro TV such as "Sgt. Bilko," but that doesn't count because it's part of our cultural heritage.
Kathy Bailey

Mary Hicks said...

Missy, thank you for a post I needed now—today! I do so like to keep scenes in order of sequence. I know my story is not the real world, and that I don't have to do that, but...

I'm printing this out to remind myself with the beginning of each new scene.

I need to start another file binder. This 'to keep' file is full!

My word count is too dismal to post. But I'm writing and I'm happy with what I'm writing. We'll see how happy I am when the 'real' editing time comes! :-)

Missy Tippens said...

Kav, I still haven't watched Once Upon a Time but have so many good things about it!

Missy Tippens said...

Jeanne, no tomatoes thrown from me! I often wish I watched less TV. :)

Missy Tippens said...

Kathy B, we LOVE The Middle. That's another one we record. I just love Sue. She's a good example of how we should live--so positive! :)

Cindy Regnier said...

I never watch Tv. I don't even like movies much. I listen to my favorite sports team by radio. No clue how to work the remote. However, this doesn't preclude me from having episodic writing pop up as a problem occasionally. OK then, frequently. And in all fairness, sometimes it just seems episodic. I know where the scene is going and the point of it but a reader may not until several chapters down the road. Yeah, but still. It's a problem. Thanks for the hints Missy. Very helpful!

Mary Hicks said...

I never watch TV. Take that back, I watched Downton Abby. I don't watch news, weather or anything on regular TV. I have Netflex and I watch an oldie after I go to bed to put me to sleep. I read and write. :-)

One day I'll be blown away by a storm, after the stock market has crashed, and I won't know either one is coming!! :-/

Eileen said...

Missy; You have me mentally reviewing chapters to see if I have tied good moments into a chapter that is not necessary. Great post. I am sad to say that I do like to zone out with episode tv like The Blacklist, Revolution and the Mentalist. Weird, that I don't read suspense huh? I also like the Goodwife when it is not being naughty.

Missy Tippens said...

Mary H, as long as you're moving forward and you're happy, then that's good! We all have our own pace. I can't usually work at a fast pace until I'm nearing the end of a book. Then I tend to fly, dying to get it all down on paper.

Keep up the good work!

Missy Tippens said...

Cindy, isn't is cool how different we all are? I'm so visual, that I have a hard time listening to games on the radio. I can't keep up as well as I can while watching.

I also can't focus when my daughter is reading me something in her homework. I have to have her show me the problem/assignment. I'm definitely not an auditory learner!

Missy Tippens said...

LOL, Mary H! We'll get on the blog and warn you if there's something you should know! :)

BTW, I also LOVE Downton Abbey. I was so pleased with this season. (Especially after the terrible last season ender!)

Missy Tippens said...

Eileen, maybe you should try reading suspense! :)

I've heard great things about The Mentalist. I need to check it out.

Wait. NO. I do NOT need another show to watch! LOL

Mary Hicks said...

I watched Downton Abby with friends, and when the last episode ended, we all looked at each other and said, 'waaaaa it's over for another year!!!' :-)

Pamela Mason said...

Hi Missy! I'm like Dianna here - I haven't heard of episodic writing before. Now I'm scouring my wip, trying to figure out if my scenes all relate to the goal... and reading the post you linked. Thanks!
As for tv shows I like to watch, I'm loving Parenthood; I dvr and binge on Welcome to Myrtle Manor and RuPaul's DragU ('sokay, my guilty pleasure) and I loved and can't get out of my head Breaking Bad. I waited for the series to complete before starting it, and as raw as it was, and unlike anything else I watch or read, I couldn't stop watching -- like a train wreck, but the character arcs, the story progression, the imagination, and the acting were just so good.

Pamela Mason said...

Oh! DA Fan here too... as well as Mr.Selfridge. It's about to start its new season on PBS.

Julie Lessman said...

Hey, Missy, SO appreciate this post on episodic writing because I'm always a little clueless what that is, and this blog explains it beautifully!

You said, "My own take on it is that you end up with episodic writing when you write lots of fun, cute, interesting, scary, exciting (or whatever type) scenes and string them together into a story. The problem is, they often don’t have much to do with the overall story arc or with advancing the plot."

I've never been accused of "episodic writing" in my plots before, but my editor just nailed me on "episodic writing" with a character, if you can believe that! In my next Heart of San Fran book, both the heroine and hero are pretty serious characters, which made me feel as if I wanted to add some humor to the book, so I introduced a dizzy French friend named Lily who comes home with the heroine after she spends a year in France. I had a ball with this French character butchering English idioms, but my editor noted that this character was not truly essential to the plot, but just there for comic relief. AND because I was over my word count, my editor requested I "send Lily back to France," which I did very reluctantly. But in hindsight, I can see that she was nothing more than an episodic character, little more than fun and cute window-dressing that only served to get on the reader's nerves.

Sigh. Valuable lesson learned on episodic writing -- the hard way! :|

Hugs,
Julie

Janet Dean said...

Missy, Excellent reminder about the importance of giving our characters a goal that matters in every scene! The goal will only matter when it keeps the character working toward her or his overall story goal. If I forget to do this, I've found I don't have to toss the entire scene. Often I can rewrite. But not always.

I love Downtown Abby. Enjoy HGTV and watching IU basketball. So I can't blame TV for any issue with episodic writing. Why not just blame our characters. If they don't know enough to pursue their goal, shame on them.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Julie, I can identify with secondary characters that don't forward the plot. Critique partner Shirley Jump has taught me that I can keep those fun, wacky characters ONLY if they are essential to forwarding the plot.

So now I make sure they impact the story and/or the character in some way. They may give essential information or have issues that echo the main character's issues. Or they may teach the character something that enables the character to change.

Janet

Missy Tippens said...

Pamela, I hadn't heard of it either until my editor mentioned it.

I LOVE Parenthood! I need to check our other DVR box. It's not recording on our main TV right now. I hope I'm not missing a season!

Missy Tippens said...

Julie, that's exactly what I was talking about. I would write scenes and have so much fun. But they did absolutely nothing to advance the plot.

How about saving your character and giving her her own book? :)

Missy Tippens said...

BTW, Julie. I'm laughing at how your editor put that so nicely--sending that character back to France. :)

Missy Tippens said...

Janet said: Why not just blame our characters. If they don't know enough to pursue their goal, shame on them.

Missy again… Janet I love this!! LOL

I also love your suggestion in your second comment.

Connie Queen said...

Great reminders, Missy. Now I have to re-think yesterday's scene. I hate it when that happens.

It difficult because I've never tried to write a suspense. I feel the need to think out the clues which dribble out in steps. A clue followed by the characters trying to figure out the pieces, followed by their growing attraction, followed by more clues.

Mary Connealy said...

I'll say here that one of my favorite books of all time, "No Greater Love" by Katherine Kingsley...is pretty darned episodic.
I didn't recognize that until I knew a lot more about writing than I do now.

It's a very old Regency and it's got such a strange mix. It's not Inspy but it's got so much God in it, including the title.
Just so funny and charming with really ugly bad guys.
Sheesh.
Such a mix.

But ultimately there WAS a whole story arc...they just abandoned it at times for long stretches to deal with this episode and that episode. Still, I love it.
Best Butler Ever.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

I've had my hand slapped for episodic writing often enough you'd think I recognize it now!

Hahahahahaha!

It can be hard to see in your own work, and easy in other people's.

I think if the scenes aren't driving the car towards the cliff of despair and the black moment, it's probably episodic, but DON'T QUOTE ME!!!!!

Hey, Missy Tippens, Good morning!!!!

Myra Johnson said...

A post definitely worth repeating! Excellent advice here, Missy!

And you're so right about the episodic influence of TV. More and more shows have the overarching story thread, like the romance between Castle and Kate, or the Mentalist finding Red John. I like that connectivity.

In a novel, though, each "episode" needs a much stronger tie to the main thread than TV programs usually have. One problem/solution must lead naturally to the next, instead of being complete in and of itself.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Still an excellent post, Missy.

I am applying it to what I am working on today.

Thank you.

BelleC said...

Thanks for the post Missy. There is such wisdom in your words. I have heard (a few times) from my Editor that I have a tendency towards episodic writing. It has taken me the longest time to figure out just exactly what that meant. One of the problems is that as a writer I just don't see it sometimes. I always want my characters to go about their lives and do things without sitting still. The key is to have action without being episodic. I'm eager to learn more about avoiding the episodic writing pitfalls as I continue on my writing journey. Thanks again.

Larissa Reinhart said...

Missy,
This is a great post! I have that trouble, too. I've never heard it called episodic writing, what a great term. I want to include a lot of funny scenes because I write humorous mysteries, but I have to remember if they don't advance the mystery, they're not necessary. Those scenes can be hard to toss! This was a good reminder. Thanks so much!
Larissa

Janet Dean said...

Hi Missy. If only we could get by with blaming our characters for everything that doesn't work in our stories! LOL But, bottom line, editors blame the writer. So we must ferret out those tea scenes.

Janet

Sally Shupe said...

Ruth, I love your definition of episodic. I'm writing that down and keeping it close. Thanks!
Update on writing: From the weekend to today I have written 2341. Wouldn't have happened without Speedbo. Thank you!!

Jennifer Smith said...

Missy, thanks for this article! In a critique, I was once told this was what I was doing with my story. This post was a great reminder for me to look out for those scenes. :)

Donna said...

I think I have been confusing episodic with melodramatic. Not sure why but now at least I have one of them straight, lol.

As far as tv shows go, hubby and I have been watching Alias on Netflix. I don't remember the show being on tv at all. But I'm a big JJ Abrams fan so I wanted to check it out.

LoRee Peery said...

Missy, you've given me something to look for and consider in my writing. Thanks for taking the time to be here. Except for the sleeping around, one of my favorite TV shows is "Nashville." Rayna James is such an interesting character. I try not to miss "Hawaii Five-0" or "The Voice," but my first choice is old movies.

Liz Flaherty said...

Thank you for this. It's one of my very worst habits.

Stephanie Queen Ludwig said...

Good stuff, Missy. I think my first novel is very episodic, and I'm going back to edit it together into something that flows better. That's my Speedbo project!

Interesting, one of my favorite classes at ACFW a few years ago was "Writing your Novel in 30 episodes." It didn't deal with episodic writing per se, but rather plotting your novel out into episodes so you could stay on track and include important things like moral premise, inciting incidents, game changers, etc. It was very helpful in plotting out my second novel.

Hubby and I do a lot of TV on DVD, so we can skip commercials and watch at our leisure. The only shows we actually watch on TV are The Big Bang Theory, Parks and Rec, The Crazy Ones (ok, that's a whole Thursday night lineup!), Face/Off, and sometimes Castle. And Downton Abbey when it was on.

Missy Tippens said...

Connie Q, this is something you can do on the next draft if you're trying to speed through the first draft. Just think about it as you move ahead. Then go back to look at what you've already written.

Missy Tippens said...

Okay, the dog is whining to go out. I'll catch up after taking him out. And after lunch.

WHAT ARE WE HAVING FOR LUNCH TODAY??? Ugh. I'm clueless. Wish I could go get a Zaxby's Zalad. I could eat them every day!!

Hmmm. Now that I thought that, it's so tempting...

Jan Drexler said...

It's lunch time already? I'm having a cheese burger with lots of veggies in a low-carb wrap. But I'm putting in a hour of writing, first!

This is still a great post, Missy - and it's the perfect time for a refresher.

My writing tends to get episodic when I'm not sure where the story is going. When I listened to the recording of the class Stephanie mentioned (it was Plot Your Novel in 30 Episodes, taught by Susan Meissner), it revolutionized the way I plot my stories. Between that and The Moral Premise, I end up with far fewer episodic scenes - and I can usually spot them in my self-editing.

Jan Drexler said...

By the way - I'm sharing a Speedbo-friendly recipe over at the Yankee-Belle Cafe today. Stop on by!

And there are a lot of other Speedbo recipes in last year's posts - just look through the "labels" in the margin for "Speedbo."

All y'all are welcome!

http://yankeebellecafe.blogspot.com/2014/03/quick-delicious-chicken-for-speedbo.html

Patricia W said...

As Ruthie said, episodic writing can be hard to see in one's own writing but is easy to see in the writing of others. I'm more likely to write in episodic fashion if I don't have a sense of where the story is headed from the beginning. Then it devolves into this, and this, and this until one of the "this" is good stuff. Fixable by either solid outline up front or good editing on the back.

Terri said...

Hi Missy, great post! I recently had to go back and add scenes to a book to ratchet up the suspense and the entire time I feared I was making it episodic. Definite a good thing to keep an eye on.

Missy Tippens said...

Mary, I don't know that book, but you made a good point. That really great characters can help keep readers reading and so they don't notice what many editors would call problems.

We need to make amazing characters!!

Missy Tippens said...

Ruthy said: "I think if the scenes aren't driving the car towards the cliff of despair and the black moment, it's probably episodic, but DON'T QUOTE ME!!!!!"

But I'm quoting you anyway! I hope you'll forgive me. :) Because it's a great way to state it!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Patricia, you make such a good point! I'm going to add that keeping yourself on track with the characters (something Mary Connealy has shown me so well!!!) so that they never vary or swerve off course, helps to avoid "episodes" because they're behaving true-to-form and headed for their destiny.

That was a big help to me!

Missy Tippens said...

Yeah, Myra, that's true. We need to really use that action/reaction sequence to keep the drive going--heading toward that cliff like Ruthy said.

Missy Tippens said...

Tina, hope you get lots done today!

Belle, we'll knock out this problem together! :)

Missy Tippens said...

Hi, Larissa! Glad you stopped by.

Yeah, some of the hardest moments for me have been cutting scenes! Like I said earlier, I have a "cuts" file to help ease that trauma. LOL

Missy Tippens said...

LOL, Janet. I'm glad you help me find those scenes.

Sally Shupe, great work!! Thanks for checking in.

Missy Tippens said...

Jennifer, I'm glad it was helpful. It's something I'm aware of all of the time as I write now. :)

Missy Tippens said...

LOL, Donna. I can see the words getting confusing.

I have to watch being melodramatic, too! In fact, as I was writing something recently I kept telling myself I was being ridiculous and melodramatic. I went back and toned that scene down. But I had so much fun writing it. LOL

Missy Tippens said...

LoRee, my parents are huge fans of old movies! Whenever I go home for a visit, that's what they keep on constantly. :) TMC (The Movie Channel)

Missy Tippens said...

Stephanie and Jan, I'll be sure to check out that workshop that Susan did! Now I'm wracking my brains trying to figure out if it was last year that I bought the tapes. Or the year before.

Good luck with your speedbo project, Stephanie!

Jan, I'm heading to the Cafe asap!

Missy Tippens said...

Patricia, you're right that sometimes (especially for me about chapter 5 or 6) we just have to plow ahead and keep moving until we hit a groove. We can always edit those scenes later.

Good point!

Missy Tippens said...

And amen Ruthy (via Mary) about letting the characters guide us. We just have to keep them consistent.

Another thing I need to work on. (sigh) Does this learning ever end?

I suspect not. I HOPE not.

Missy Tippens said...

Terri, I know how tough that can be to add scenes. I find I have to do a read-through after doing so to make sure everything flows well and doesn't repeat.

Good luck with yours!

Missy Tippens said...

Okay, I just checked out Jan's recipe. And it's PERFECT for speedbo!

Missy Tippens said...

Now, back to the revisions...

Jan Drexler said...

Susan Meissner's "Plot Your Novel in 30 Episodes" class was in Dallas 2012 - at least the version I have. Maybe she's offered it other times, too.

DebH said...

Good post and informative comments as well today. I tend towards episodic writing, so this is a good post for me to learn how to avoid it.

as for TV shows... with a four year old in the house, I'm firmly entrenched in children's programming (including DVRing certain episodes so we can re-watch the favorite shows oh, say, thirty times *sigh* at least none of his faves is Barney *shudder*)

I do record the Voice and hubby likes NCIS. View time is during nap time for the child unit.

SPEEDBO update: 900 words last night. probably all episode *heh* baby steps...

Stephanie Queen Ludwig said...

Jan is correct, it is from Dallas 2012 (the only year I attended the conference). I have the worksheet Susan passed out (covered in my notes), and also a version I made of it for myself on my computer, so I could plot my novel. It really helped me with the second novel, since it's a murder mystery, and I NEEDED to know when inciting incidents happened, what would ratchet up the tension, etc. I'm thinking of applying it to my first novel that I'm revising, but I'm a little terrified to do that...

Jan Drexler said...

Stephanie, I really wish I had attended that class! But I've listened to the recording two or three times, and I bought the syllabus CD, so I have the handout.

I put my 30 episodes on index cards and keep them next to my computer while I write. It's so helpful to see what's coming up next so I can lead into it.

You know, sometimes we do learn something great at Conference. It isn't all just schmoozing with the Seekers :)

Carol Moncado said...

Genesis entered. Gotta love the nerve wracking... ;)

Carol Moncado said...

Wait! What?!

Jan!

Conference isn't just about schmoozing with Seekers?!

Since when?!

And why didn't anyone tell me?!??!?!?!

Debby Giusti said...

Missy, loved revisiting the KY Book Festival! Lots of authors I recognize. I know you had fun.

Thanks for the review of episodic writing...always a fear of mine. YIKES!

The goal is key. The hero/heroine has to keep the goal in mind at all times. Or maybe the author needs to keep focusing on what's driving the hero/heroine!

Perhaps I need to reread your post. LOL!

Also need a Stan Williams review. You two work well together.

Hugs!

Missy Tippens said...

Thanks, Jan. I appreciate the info!

Missy Tippens said...

Good job DebH! Gosh, I remember those days of Barney and all the kids shows!

Now, though, with the youngest child a junior in high school, I'm treasuring every moment she'll sit beside me and watch our favorite show. :)

Missy Tippens said...

Stephanie, I understand that fear. LOL But I bet you'll be pleasantly surprised. And if not, well then it's ALL FIXABLE! :)

Missy Tippens said...

Glad you entered the Genesis, Carol!! Good luck with it!

And Debby, I need to keep those links for myself to review. I think it's time I read Stan's book again.

Missy Tippens said...

LOL, Jan. Yeah, I guess we need to go to learn some, huh? :)

Okay, going back into the story. I finished the revisions!! Woo hoo! Now for one last read through of the proposal...

Natalie Monk said...

Hi, Missy!

Your tip about the character having a story-long goal with escalating conflict--priceless! That truth is what helped me finish my first manuscript. And making sure each scene goal worked toward the story-long goal.

Hmm. The TV series I'm addicted to right now is Hallmark's When Calls the Heart. :)
I love old shows like the Virginian, too.

If I ever find the time, I'm going to watch more Sherlock and Dr. Who. Loved the ones I've seen so far.

It's a gorgeous day here! I may find some shade and take my Speedbo revisions outside.

Hope everyone else is progressing nicely!

Haven Brown said...

Super helpful post! I'm so glad someone recommended me to Seekerville for all these helpful ideas to improve my writing. I wasn't here two years ago so it's all new stuff to me! I'm going to go through my finished book later this week and pull some of these unnecessary scenes. Good plan.

Pam Hillman said...

Carol, you schmooze all you want, girlfriend.

And bring cookies. :)

Episodic writing...yikes.

I got nothing, other than the fact that it's probably a lot easier to find it than it is to fix it.

Missy Tippens said...

I'm sorry to be awol this afternoon. We had a fire in the neighborhood--destroyed a house down the street that was currently empty. The family had been trying to rent it out. So very sad for them.

And I was terrified when I realized what was going on. I had assumed there'd been a wreck on a nearby highway when I heard the sirens. Then saw the police cars and fire truck, etc. out in front of my house.

Missy Tippens said...

Natalie, I'm glad it's been helpful for you to do this, too!

It's gorgeous here today as well. Over 70 degrees. I ate lunch outside until I got too hot and had to come back in. I even got a little pink on my arms!

Missy Tippens said...

Haven, I had hoped re-posting would be helpful to newer folks!

Don't forget you can also beef up scenes. Make sure the character has a goal and takes steps to achieve it. :)

Missy Tippens said...

LOL, Pam. The real trick is to realize while you're doing it! That's my goal. :)

Crystal Ridgway said...

Hey all, I'm pretty late to the scene aren't I? Oh well. Had to go grocery shopping. For a speedbo update, 6,800 on Saturday, and 8,045 on Sunday. Haven't even turned on the laptop today, though.
As for episodic writing, I don't believe I do this very often. If a scene doesn't push the plot forward, I pull it.
I don't watch or DVR any TV programs, though I own multiple western series on DVD.
The bookfest looks fun, Missy!

Jan Drexler said...

Missy! A fire? Glad the house was empty, but still, what a loss :(

Cara Lynn James said...

Still a great post, Missy! I used to be guilty of episodic writing -- I think I watched too much TV, just as you said. Now I work hard not to.

Wilani Wahl said...

thank you for this great post.

Usually on Mondays I am in recovery mode from hectic weekends. But today is worse than normal thanks to daylight savings. Although I am hoping to make my word count goals for the day.

It is beautiful here in NC and I did get in a walk.

Olivia said...

Thank you, Missy. You used a tv show that I could relate to....we as readers are looking for progress of some sort toward the goal and have a vague disquiet when it us not being done.
Had a "thrilling" day on my mystery/suspense novel. Wrote the final chapter so I could see how the surprise villain felt. 1500 words before lunch so made my goal of 1000! Speedbo gives an urgency to the schedule!

Missy Tippens said...

Crystal, those are fantastic numbers!! congrats!

Missy Tippens said...

Yes, Jan. Very frightening. And sad for the owners.

Missy Tippens said...

Cara, I'm glad I'm not the only one. :)

Wilani, I spent yesterday afternoon taking a nap. I think that helped me adjust to the time change. I don't why it makes such a difference! I stay up late lots of time. But for some reason just knowing it changed makes me get tired. LOL

Missy Tippens said...

Yay, Olivia!!! Don't you just love typing the ending?! Way to go! I'm glad your villain got what was coming to him/her!

Wilani Wahl said...

I am discovering I need to make a list of all my characters in the story and details so when they appear I don't forget names or what I have written about them. Is this normal and is there a better way to remember. I have no trouble with the main character, it is all the other characters that are recurring but minor.

I am loving this whole process but know I have a lot to learn.

Chill N said...

MISSY Thanks for the reminder!
Because of several Seekerville posts, I find myself asking "what was the purpose of that scene" every time I write one. It would probably help even more if I'd start asking, "What will be the purpose of this scene" but that runs against my non-plotting nature.

PAMELA M -- Thank you for the 'heads up' about Mr Selfridge! It's the only show I watch now, having given up on Downton Abbey (although I sense some friends may nag me to watch last season).

Other than Mr. Selfridge, the only thing I watch on TV is the weather -- that way I can call Mary H if there's something in her neighborhood :-)

I'm pleased with what I'm accomplishing during SPEEDBO. No land speed records, but at the end of the writing day I feel like the words are good.

Go Speedbo-ers!!

Nancy C

Pegg Thomas said...

I'm not much of a TV watcher. I watch the news, a bit of horse racing on the weekends, and that's about it. Although my son did drag me in to watch Sleepy Hollow with him last fall. I liked it. It's quirky.

Happy with my Speedbo work. I'm plotting along. Dang. Plotting shouldn't be this hard! I won't follow half of it anyway once I get going... but it's good to at least start with a road map. ;)

Chill N said...

CAROL - congrats on entering the Genesis!

MISSY - so glad no one was hurt during the house fire. It's so unnerving when there's something like that in our own neighborhood, isn't it? A house in our neighborhood has been struck by lightning -- and burned -- twice. They rebuilt both times. Not sure I could be that brave :-)

Nancy C

CatMom said...

Great post, Missy - - definitely worth repeating!
This is an area I really struggle with, and had to giggle when I read your section about "don't think if you end at bedtime your next scene has to be at breakfast" - - Oh my---That is SO often what I'm inclined to do, and I've got to stop!
You've shared some very helpful advice here (it's going into my keeper file) so THANK YOU!
Hugs, Patti Jo

CatMom said...

P.S. So sorry about that fire in your neighborhood, Missy, but thankful no one was injured. Something that hits close to home like that is super unnerving. :(

Eva Maria Hamilton said...

Great repost Missy!

"...escalating conflict. I usually make a list of all the ways she can fail to reach her goal and then order them from mildest to worst."

What an interesting idea!

Missy Tippens said...

Wilani, I have a file for each story I call the Planning Notebook. It's a Word file in the "notebook" format. So there are tabs. And I always have a "secondary characters" tab just for that reason! I never can remember the details.

I also keep all the main character facts as well because otherwise I can't even remember what color hair or eyes they have. :)

Missy Tippens said...

Nancy C, good for you!! We don't have to break speed records. We just have to challenge ourselves to be productive.

I just hit send on my revised proposal!!! Now, one more read-through of the edits on my October book. I'm ahead of schedule! :)

Linda Marie Finn said...

well I am stopping in to say that due to episodes here today I didn't get alot of writing done over the weekend or today. I did make it to an author chat party that was on Balancing our lives as work at home moms and since she home-schools like I do I thought her book applied here. Balanced by Tricia Goyer. I have 7,000 words so far. about 3000 shy of what I wanted, but tomorrow is another day and I am getting up early.
Linda
faithfulacresbooks@gmail.com

Missy Tippens said...

Pegg, good for you on your roadmap!

Nancy, that's so sad about your neighbors! I'd be really worried about rebuilding, too. Today while outside, I learned from a neighbor that another house burned years ago before we moved in--struck by lightning.

Missy Tippens said...

Patti Jo, I wrote that because of my own personal experience! I did that many times and still have to watch or I'll do it again. :)

Missy Tippens said...

Thanks, Eva Maria. You'll have to let me know if you try it.

Missy Tippens said...

Linda, that sounds like a great book/chat from Tricia. I hope it's helpful.

Good for you on the word count! 7k is great! I hope tomorrow is fruitful.

Jamie Adams said...

Hi Missy, Great post! I'm late for the party. It was so nice outside the kids and I played hooky. Now that they're all in bed time to catch up with speedbo.

Missy Tippens said...

Jamie, I don't blame you one bit. I ate lunch outside and read a book. Was out there about 45 minutes, until I got too hot. :)

Hope you get lots done tonight!

Missy Tippens said...

I'm going to get off the computer and go read for a while. Night all! I'll check back tomorrow for any other comments. Hope you all have a good evening!

Walt Mussell said...

I haven't thought about episodic writing in a while. However, I do remember a judge who once wrote on my manuscript, "Give us story." It sounds like what she meant.

As far as TV, my current addiction is The Americans.

Pat W said...

Missy, thanks for the informative post. Episodic writing is something I struggle with. After reading a few of the previous comments, I feel certain its because I haven't planned as well as I needed to. One of my Speedbo goals was to get the rest of my book plotted so hopefully that will help.

I didn't get to write Saturday. I only had 423 word count on Sunday but did better today with 1367. My goal is only 500 a day so I did manage to make up for Saturday.

jubileewriter said...

I have never heard of the term "episocic writing" before. I love that you pointed out when one chapter ends at bedtime the next doesn't have to start at breakfast. I read alot not just to review for others but for enjoyment. I love to see scene writing. The next chapter might be three weeks from the first for example. The story moves along without dragging me through every daily actvity. I love watching NCIS, Elementary,Arrow and there are others.Often I can find them on demand to view when it is convenient for me.I am a big Hallmark movie fan. Movies are more like novels because they follow the main characters to the end.
Thnaks for sharing this post now I will be more mindful as I am in the throws of rewrites and revisions for Speedbo.

Kathryn said...

A timely post, Missy!! I'll be diagnosing my wip...searching for "episodic writing." Love your suggestion of an "action-reaction chart" to keep your character proactive.

Have a tea-lightful day!

May the K9 Spy (and KC Frantzen) said...

Way behind here obviously.

Interesting on episodic writing and TV shows. You know, we have ours on pause most of the time. So Netflix it is.

The most recent series that have hooked us are Miss Fischer's Murder Mysteries and Nikita. The reason I liked each of these is the overall arc is still there, moving the characters forward.

The writing in Nikita is incredible, with study-worthy character development. Unfortunately the final episodes in the last season got a bit bloody for my taste and I had to avert my eyes and turn down the volume several times... But I hung in there and so glad I did. Lots to learn...

Thanks for making the point however - that everything must continue to move forward in our work. Hate cutting scenes completely!!!

Good post! :)

Missy Tippens said...

Walt, Pat and Jubliee, I'm glad you stopped by! Pat, nice job on catching up. Jubilee, good luck with those revisions!

Missy Tippens said...

Kathryn, I hope the chart is helpful!

KC, I'm not familiar with Nikita. I'll check it out.

Julie Lessman said...

Giving Lily her own book??? Mmm ... pretty cool idea, Missy ... I'll have to brainstorm that one for sure. :)

Hugs,
Julie

Jon and Vicki Marney said...

I have been bad about keeping up on reading these blogs, but I am enjoying each one and benefiting from the many tips. I just tend to get hung up on reading and then get behind on my writing,, so I'm trying to play 'catch-up' while still trying to get some work done around my house during our two weeks at home. Monday I got about 1000 words written on a third book that I realized is waiting to be told--a good thing...
Vicki

Missy Tippens said...

Vicki, nice job! Glad you're hanging in there with it!

Mary Curry said...

Missy, this was great. I live in terror of episodic writing because I've seen so many editors mention how big a turnoff it is. Thanks for explaining so well.