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Writing a novel is like fishing without a rod or a net or a boat. Or arms or legs or a body. Fishing as a ghost…


Nothing You Haven’t Seen Before

You might be wondering exactly what we mean by ‘skip ahead’, so we thought we’d clear that up first. We refer to these as internal transitions. That translates to transitions that take place within the scene: the action moves to a new time or place but is not separated with a scene break (when the paragraphs split) or a chapter break – it just continues inside the same scene.

You’ll have seen this done in writing many times before, usually when the characters are engaged in something mundane (such as searching for something on a computer or riding in a car) or when they need to get from one place to another without it dragging on.

There are a few things you must take notice of when writing these internal transitions. You don’t want them to seem too jumpy or the reader will lose interest. You don’t want them to drag on too long or the reader will lose interest.

So, how exactly do you want them?


Crisp And Purposeful

That’s how.

First, let’s go into when you should steer clear of using the internal transition. If the skip ahead you’re making is any longer than five hours, we’d recommend using a scene or chapter break instead. That’s purely for pacing reasons. The reader will feel like they’re being tossed ahead randomly if the skipped amount of time is too large.

If the amount of time you skip is within that five hour mark, there are two different styles of skipping ahead you could try. They should both be done in different scenarios and for different reasons.

Scenario one is the simpler of the two. If you’re skipping ahead in time purely to transition through something mundane and boring, and don’t need to give any context because nothing of importance takes place, you simply tell of the skip ahead and then carry on with the scene.

Scenario two is a little more complex. This is done when you want to skip over something but still need to give the reader some detail or summary. We call this the mini flashback. You use them if the time period you skipped over contained something important: something that is relevant either later in the scene, or later in the overall plot.

We’ll show you the execution of both with some examples below.


Examples

They arrived at the station half an hour later. The doors swung open and Quinn stepped out, hugging his coffee as if it were his newborn son. The sun cast a ray of false promises across the ground in front of him. False because it was freezing. Hence the coffee-canoodling.


They arrived at the station half an hour later. During the journey, Quinn had mentioned the relevance of Jack Till, the man Patricia was seen with. They had spoken about how likely a suspect he really was. Why had he been with her? What was the connection?

Quinn stepped out, hugging his coffee as if it were his newborn son. The sun cast a ray of false promises across the ground in front of him. False because it was freezing. Hence the coffee-canoodling.


Make Sense?

The first example is what you’d do if nothing relevant happened. You’d just skip ahead and get on with the scene. The second example is how you’d position things before moving on with the next part of the writing. Make sense? Good.

Have a play around and try some of these techniques in your writing. Maybe you already have scenes that this can apply to, and would benefit from implementing these guidelines. Whatever the case, be sure to keep these tips in that mind of yours – they are really useful when it comes to great flow and pacing.

And great flow and pacing are two hugely important things. Why? Because they make for a very happy reader.

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