The first thing you have to do, whether you are writing the scene from scratch or whether you’ve plotted it out and you are getting ready to write, is we’ve got to know what is going to happen in this scene. The best way to approach this is think about it as if there’s a movie camera inside of your head. The movie camera is moving around. The lens is pointing in different directions, and you are identifying what is physically happening on the stage of this story. Think about it this way. Make it factual, make it concrete, and make it concise. So if you have a scene where it’s going to be a very dramatic argument between a couple in a restaurant, well, what is happening in the scene could be two people sitting at a table in a restaurant. Again, think about it from a cinematic point of view.
What are the characters doing? Who are they? Where are they? What are they physically doing? We’re going to get into the subtext and what’s really happening in the scene a little bit later, but we need this to frame it out. And when you’re writing a novel, this is going to be very helpful, because if you get 60, or 70, or 80, or 100, chapters in, you’re not necessarily going to remember the succinct summary of what happens in every single scene. If you are plotting it out, you might be doing this naturally. If you’re pantsing it, when you’re done writing, you want to have this so that you can look at your entire story from start to finish in a very shortened form, and that will help you in revisions later on. So that’s the first thing you’ve got to do—three sentences or less, explain what’s happening in the scene.