Last week we promised to share our secret method for making sure every scene contains everything it needs to. That secret is…
Stubs. What an ugly little word for something so useful. A stub is, in the Rune Skelleyverse, an intermediate step between outline and prose. It’s a summary or synopsis of a scene. We talked at length about the importance of a thorough outline when working as a team. Now to transform your lavishly illustrated plans for world domination into a reality.
In Chez Skelley it’s Jen who creates the stubs for both of us to work from. She examines the outline and dissects it, breaking it down into scenes. For each scene she decides which character’s point of view is most appropriate or interesting, and then writes a brief overview of the action. She includes details like what characters are wearing, continuity items, and hidden motivations. There’s a lot of information in a stub that doesn’t appear in the finished scene, but instead goes toward making sure the author remembers why certain details are important. The stub also serves as a nice place to collect snippets of dialog or description that come up in email conversations or planning meetings, so that they aren’t forgotten.
Once a chunk of the novel has been stubbed, it becomes easy for either of us to choose which scene we’d like to work on next. The stubs all show precise starting and ending points so the writer knows exactly how their jigsaw piece will fit into the finished puzzle.
Jen likes this method because she’s something of a control freak, and this allows her to smear her grubby thumbprints all over the scenes she doesn’t write, even before the editing process.
Kent likes it because it makes his assignment crystal clear, and he knows that Jen won’t come along after he’s done, whining that he left something important out. At least not very often.
Stubs work well for a writing partnership, but they are probably of limited use for a solo author. They could be seen as a really early draft, useful for detecting plot holes and unnecessary scenes.
Do you use stubs? And if so, do you have a better name for them?