Tips, Writing

Write the Novel – Build a Better Segue (BBS)

This blog completes our series of five critique abbreviations. Today’s abbreviation is BBS – Built a Better Segue.

It’s not pronounced the way it looks. Segue — seg-way — meaning a smooth transition between music pieces, conversation topics, scenes, or chapters.

Chapter end or scene change?

In general, chapters end with big reveals or emotional moments.

  • “Michael Garvey was the district attorney who sent my father to prison. I’ve wanted him dead for twenty years.”
  • “A patrolman in the valley just called in Francine’s license plate. I’m sorry, Toby. There’s blood all over the front seat.”

Scenes change because the story moves to a different location, time passes, or there is a change in a point of view.

Chapter end/beginning format

If we’re writing for a specific publisher, we must follow whatever chapter end/beginning format that publisher requires.

Since most of us write before we know who out publisher will be, it easier to use standard formats.

Between chapters

  • There is a forced page break at the end of the previous chapter. Put this in even if the last line on that chapter ends exactly at the page bottom. It’s just neater that way.
  • Title is centered, same font as the rest of the manuscript, and 2 points bigger than the body text. So if we’re using 12 point font for the manuscript, the chapter title is in 14 point.
  • Capitalize the first letter of Chapter and use numerals for the chapter number; for example, Chapter 23.
  • Putting the chapter title in all capitals, or making it bold are left over from typewriters, and we’ve evolved beyond all of that.
  • A word about renumbering. As we go through subsequent drafts, chapters will be added or deleted. Don’t bother renumbering each time a change is made unless there have been so many changes that we’re lost.
  • For additional chapters, add letters to the new chapters: Chapter 23, Chapter 23A, Chapter 23B, Chapter 24.
  • For deleted chapters, add a sentence at the next chapter’s beginning: Chapter 16 was deleted.
  • Once the rewrite is finished, go back and clean up the numbering.

Between scenes

  • Turn on widow/orphan control. It looks neater not to have only one line of the previous scene at the top of the next page, or one line of a new scene at the bottom of a page.
  • One double space after text ends, scene change mark, one double space before text begins again.
  • Use regular characters such as asterisks or hyphens for the scene change mark, such as ***** or – – – . Yes, it looks cool to use widgets or dingbats such as ✑ or ☃ as scene dividers, but it doesn’t look professional, and it can create formatting problems for the typesetter.

Life happens between chapters and scenes

Time passes, locations change, or a character’s emotional situation changes. Sometimes point of view changes. Readers need to be reoriented with each change.

  • After three days in Beijing, downtown Manhattan on a Monday morning felt pastoral. (The reader knows our detective is back in New York, but the city feels different because he’s been away.)
  • The only good thing about the drive to Cousin Sal’s farm was the sunset. I pulled over, sat on the hood, and watched pink and orange clouds melt into darkness. Melting into darkness was sure the way I felt. (Since the last scene happened at noon, in a diner, the reader will figure out that several hours have passed.)
  • Lakey’s fingers gripped the chain link fence. The little girl in the red coat and hat wasn’t in the school yard. Maybe she had more than one coat and hat. No, she wasn’t there, and she should be. It was time tell somebody, but who? Who would listen to an old bag lady? (Since the last chapter was in Reverend Small’s point of view, the reader knows that the story has switched to Lakey’s point of view.)

There’s no secret to changing perspective. You must be clear and courteous to the reader, just as you would be to a guest.

~Jerry B. Jenkins, novelist

Join us next week, Tuesday, August 17, for the Primary Plot.

On Thursday, August 14th, we also finish up our mini series on merit badges for writers with Writers of a Certain Age, Writers of the Purple Page, and Stop Me Before I Volunteer Again.