E is for Enter Late, Leave Early

Meme created by Erin Penn

During the March 10th weekend this year, I attended the SAGA Professional Writer’s Conference in Winston-Salem NC (http://sagaconference.com/). A lot of good advice was to be had, and several of them had me making memes the minute I got home. I am a hands-on learner and making a visual memes helps things to stick.

I normally post three days a week, which leaves me twelve days to fill in for the A-to-Z Blogging Challenge for April. I’m going to post the five writing meme I made during my non-standard days complete with why the writing advice is important.

Both Dr. Hartley and Dr. Leverett, in two different presentations at the conference, gave a piece of writing advice stolen from the movie industry: Get in a scene as late as you can and leave as early as you can. Distill the action as much as possible. Obviously the advice is very important when two different people present the same information, and the advice works in different storytelling mediums.

What “Enter Late, Leave Early” means is focus the action. You don’t need the camera (or the written narrative) following the person climbing out of the car, going in the house, ringing the doorbell, getting welcomed, receiving a drink, taken into the family room, and the conversation starts. The important bit, distilled down, is when the visitor says, “The results came back with anomalies.” Heck, you can even push it back a couple of more seconds to the home owner responds with a shocked “Anomalies?”. “Yes, anomalies. I know we said it was a standard test but…”

At the other end, “Leave Early,” cut out of the scene the second the last bit of important storytelling data is presented. Only at the very end of the book, when providing closure, do you need to end a scene with all the bow-ties and swirls. Until then, push, push, push the storyline forward.

Should there be extraneous data beyond the mainplot line? Of course, there is backstory, character development, the emotional storyline, the action storyline, the series overarc seeds and advancement, and, my personal favorite, worldbuilding. All these things make a story layered like a good baklava.

But each individual scene needs to only have what is happening for that scene, and rarely does that include walking through doors.

Oh, that would be a good piece of advice too: Don’t Walk Through Doors

5 thoughts to “E is for Enter Late, Leave Early”

    1. Thank you so much for visiting – I just tried to return the visit with a comment, but unfortunately I’m locked out of wordpress commenting when I have to login to a wordpress account. That genre a day thing looks wicked fun.

  1. Sounds like an interesting conference you attended! The last writing conference I attended was years ago, a SCBWI one for children’s writers. It was great, and I met a lot of interesting people. One piece of advice I heard was, “don’t try to work out what the trend is, start your own.”

    1. Excellent advice. For children, they change too fast and for adults, those books take too long to write to catch the wave. Write your story and have fun!

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