Tactical Tuesday: Advice for Self-Editing

Over the last several weeks, we have taken a look at scene development and have learned that a scene needs four basic elements: An opening paragraph that sets the stage and transitions the reader as to time, place, and point-of-view; a point-of-view character with a goal and motivation to reach that goal; conflict that impedes the character in his search to claim what he’s after; and lastly, your scene should conclude with an ending that makes the reader want to turn the page.

An author doesn’t have to dump a dead body at the end of every scene. That can be pretty tiresome. It isn’t even necessary to have an earth-shattering event. Those type of endings work in suspense and thrillers, but what about women’s fiction or romance?

A turn-the-page ending is something that either shouts or whispers to the reader that there’s something exciting to come.

Below is the scene we've been developing over the last few weeks:

Two days after the funeral, John stood at his father's desk, reviewing the old man's Trust. John let the document slip from his fingers. The ticking grandfather clock, ironically left to his father by his grandfather, broke the unbearable silence as John stared out the window at the lush gardens of the mansion.

The heavy oak door of his father's office creaked open. John rubbed tired eyes and turned at his mother's touch on his arm. 'Why?" He cleared emotion from his throat.

Mother ran her hand along the edge of the desk. "I don't know.”

John picked up the Trust once again and held it out to her. "I lived my life to one day run the company, and it's gone. My life's work."

"John, he didn't leave you penniless. He left you stock in the corporation.”

John shook his head. "And I'm supposed to appreciate it. Fourteen to sixteen hours a day, seven days a week, and I get a token of his appreciation."

"He loved you. He was proud of you."

"Funny way of showing it, Mother." He turned to her, his gaze narrowed. "And don't think for a moment I won't get my company back." Quick strides took him toward the door.

"John." His mother's voice held the gentle tone he needed now.

He stopped and looked back at her.

"Son, I don't believe you read the most important part of your father's Trust." She held it out to him.

He blinked. What was she getting at? He moved back to her, took the Trust, and read it slowly. Then he lifted a hardened gaze to her. "He left my company in her hands?"

"Your father always loved Mary like a daughter. He said there were things you didn't understand about her--things she couldn't share with you. He thought if you'd just turn your life over to God, you'd see your judgment was clouded by misconception."

What was his father thinking? The last time he saw Mary, he told her if she ever showed her face around him again, it’d be the last time anyone ever saw her. After what she did to him, letting her walk out the door seemed like a very generous offer. He understood Mary all right. He understood her all too well, and God would never change his hatred for his ex-wife.


One little turn, and Mary becomes more important to the story, and the reader is left with a hint that John may be lifting a challenge to God that John isn’t going to win? Do you want to turn the page to see exactly what separated John and Mary and why John’s father would insist on leaving her his lifework?

As a writer edits her manuscript, it is important to review it for these basic elements: Setting of the scene; goal and motivation, conflict, and a turn-the-page ending.

Until next week, happy editing.


  1. I absolutely want to know what comes next. Good example.

  2. Wow! Great post, and wonderful example.