Thursday, October 2, 2008

Episodic Writing

Missy Tippens here. In the midst of learning once again. (Actually, I’m always learning more and more about writing!)

Have you ever gotten feedback from a contest or an editor/agent that said your writing is episodic? Well, that’s what I’m working on, too. So I thought I’d share some of what I’ve figured out.

If a story is episodic, then it’s just a string of scenes (which may be really nice scenes, really great scenes!), but they don’t feel unified. There’s no drive in the story. There’s no sense of the story moving toward something, no sense that the character is striving for something. Also, there’s no “glue” that holds the hero and heroine together—or forces them together, I should say. Instead, there may just be chance meetings.

So if you find you’re doing this, what can you do to fix it? Well, I’m still learning! LOL But at the end of my post, I’ll share a link to an article my editor gave me that’s really helpful.

Another thought I had late the other night (why do these things hit me right as I’m falling asleep?) is that a workshop I attended at the ACFW conference could be really helpful. Agent Natasha Kern gave an excellent workshop on the Power of Premise. I can’t possibly summarize an hour-long workshop here, but basically, Natasha said that premise is that essential thing of what your novel is about. It’s the “aha” moment your main character has—the truth that makes him see what he must do to change his situation so that he can take action and succeed. One of the things Natasha said that really stuck with me is that once you have your premise, EVERYTHING in the book is about that. It’s in every single scene. Unity!

So find your premise (which, by the way, is different from theme) and weave it into your story. See if that helps with the episodic problem. And take a look at this fantastic article that touches on things such as the story question, a proactive character with a goal and other great stuff…

So, have you ever been told your story was episodic? Care to share how you fixed it?



  1. Thanks for the post, Missy. Very interesting. The part about the premise fits in well with tying the whole story together.

  2. Okay Missy, it's too early for this kind of insight. Premise/theme? Are you just trying to confuse me?

  3. LOL, Mindy! I've always thought of the premise as the "what if?". But I guess the "what if?" is just the "what if?" :) It's just a starting point.

    The way Natahsa described theme is that it's more like a recurring motif. Theme is less driven by the "aha" moment and the outcome. (These are just my notes, so don't quote me on this! Instead, try to get a recording of her workshop.)


  4. One more comment that I just saw in my notes:

    Premise = The truth (to the author) that she puts in the story.

    The premise is what God has given us to reveal in our stories.

    (Again, from my notes, which may not be exact!)

  5. Thanks for the post. I was just thinking the other day, as was the friend who read a rough draft of my second book in my's episodic. I never knew the phrase, but that's exactly it! What timing of this article.

    I've been editing the MS for a couple weeks now trying to figure out what was missing, something felt off. THIS WAS IT!

    Now I can go back to editing with a new perspective. Deleting those scenes that don't move it forward and then better linking those left in!

  6. Lynn, I'm so glad it was a help! It's something I've heard about my work off and on through the years, so obviously something I'll have to be on the watch for with every book.

    Good luck on your revisions! Thanks for stopping by.


  7. Lynn,

    What great timing! Thanks for visiting. Don't you love it when you see God working?