Monday, December 29, 2008

More on Episodic Writing

Cheryl Wyatt is a member of the blog called Seekerville. I asked her if I could share her blog with you on the same topic of episodic writing. The blog is a commentary which happened between Cheryl and her editor. She gave me her permission. Below is Cheryl’s blog entry on Episodic Writing

Cheryl says:
Today, I'm sharing my editor's definition in hopes it will help those of you whose manuscripts have been deemed "episodic."

She said (paraphrasing) episodic writing is 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.

In my case, my overall story arc running through the book is Parachute Jumper Ben helping the heroine who is down and out financially and has recently been evicted. Her car breaks down in Refuge, and Ben is determined to befriend and help her.

Yes, this is a romance, and the romance arc must be front and center, but as far as character story goals and plot arcs, the main one that should run entirely through the story is Ben helping the heroine.

My editor went on to explain that episodic writing means loose writing where the author is just getting the characters from one scene to another (such as ending one scene with dinner and starting the next scene at breakfast) without anything really significant happening in the middle or at the hooks in and out to raise the stakes or increase the tension.

She said to make sure the stakes are constantly being raised and that there is tension in every scene and always a forward movement of plot...which comes from conflict. Also, the pacing needs to stay on track.

So, with her explanation, I gathered that non-episodic writing is tight writing where there is sufficient conflict and where the stakes are continually raised. Tension is present in every scene and every scene has a vital purpose. There is always a forward movement of the plot.

Hmm...that sounds eerily like some of the elements on contest score sheets and feedback forms.

So, can we gather from this that acquisitions editors really DO care about internal and external conflict, pacing, tension, plot, tight writing and every other element on most contest score sheets?

If you've been marked down on "Conflict" on contest score sheets, it is possible that your writing is episodic. (My words, not the editor's.)

So...In Summary.....

---Don't let your story be merely a stream of pointless scenes. Give it direction
---Don't let a series of random scenes trump your overall story arc
---Have AT LEAST one vital reason for every scene
---Write tight
---Hold true and fast to the overall story arc
---Continually build tension
---Constantly ramp conflict
---Characters must have clear cut goals and growth. Constantly challenge those goals.
---Constantly up the stakes
---Put tension in every scene
---Always have forward movement of the plot and not just "episodes" or stagnation
---Maintain smooth scene transitions so the story flows in logical progression. (In one long running arc instead of reading like a bunch of episodes or scenes stringed together.)

From Cheryl Wyatt's blog:

Thanks, Cheryl. I hope that you have gained some good information on avoiding episodic writing and, instead, can write scenes that moves your story forward in a dynamic way.


Avily Jerome said...

I love Cheryl's blog! Thanks for posting that, Gail!

book report said...

This is a nice post:) I've been doing research papers on episodic writing. I came across this subject when I was still in college. This post will help the other writers to improve their skills to be able to avoid episodic writing.

thesis writing said...

I love your blog, you are very clever and I like you!

Gail Gaymer Martin said...

Thanks, Thesis Writing. I'm glad you enjoy the blog.


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iceland vpn said...

Episodic stories are dragged sometimes that goes wrong in the sense of entertainment or tension, this an interesting post, thanks