Moment by Moment Fiction

Long about January of this year, I began to make an overhaul of my book (when I say “my book”, I mean the one I’m currently working on. I’ve written about five, so far.) Funny things began to happen every time I set about to work on this novel. My computer broke. I fell down the stairs and busted my ass, but not in the way that phrase is commonly used. I got sick, really sick. And then I got sick again, really sick. And I started to wonder if I was supposed to be overhauling my book. You may think I’m superstitious, but I don’t care. I was hurting!

Out of desperation, I reverted back to an older version of my book and put my feelers out on Facebook for beta readers. With a big sigh of relief, I sent off several manuscripts to willing guinea pigs and waited for the results. Because my book is, if nothing else, a quick read, most of my betas responded within a week or two. I’m not going to tell you what their comments were. It’s not in my best interest to brag about or denigrate my book online–with one exception. One beta reader said something that has stuck in my head ever since hearing it. I’d never heard anything like it, and it fit so beautifully with my writing philosophy that I have to share it.

She said, You have a real gift for moment [by]* moment writing.”

Just to clarify, I’ve never met this person or talked with her outside of e-mail and blog comments. She’s an online friend who writes a different style of fiction than I do. But she found words to describe my writing better than I could have: moment by moment.

What does it mean, exactly? To me, it means that I’m not a scene-by-scene writer. And I don’t particularly like the trend of books mimicking movies. At a certain point, all books are a series of consecutive scenes, but when the scenes open, follow through, and close as if a camera somewhere is panning in and panning out, screen to black, then new scene, I feel like I’m watching a sitcom or a movie rather than reading a book.

When I write, I want my stories to flow like romantic episodes (yes, s*e*x, but this is a clean, child-friendly blog). The episode begins and it builds moment by moment toward a climax. Can you imagine it any other way?

What do you think of this beta-minted term, moment-by-moment fiction? How do you prefer your books? Do you write by scenes?

*Her exact phrase was “moment to moment”, but I keep remembering it in my head as “moment by moment”. There may be a subtle difference in these phrases; moment to moment seems like a connected chain, so perhaps that’s the better line.

p.s. Examine the painting and you’ll see the possibilities of one moment working into the next.

p.p.s I have continued with my writing overhaul. If I break my neck, don’t be surprised.



  1. I love that description! It tells me that I should be and will be connected all the time during the story–and that I will be pulled in deeper yet:)

  2. Thanks, Terri. I think my beta needs to copyright her term! I sincerely hope you're right about the reader being pulled in deeper throughout the story.

  3. I love that description–to me it says that each scene is truly in the moment, and that each moment is all-encapsulating for itself (if that, um, makes sense). Good luck overhauling–no broken vertebrae allowed!

  4. I love reading books that make me feel like I'm experiencing things in real time! Good job Jill! That is no easy task.

  5. Rowenna–I'm being careful every time I walk down the stairs! đŸ˜‰ What you say makes perfect sense to me.

  6. What a great comment, and compliment, I think. Now you got me thinking, am I mimicking movies? I do think that technique gets old, leads to lifeless characters. We have the benefit of being able to describe all five senses and to jump into our character's heads, so why not capitalize on that.

  7. Jessica, I know, it's a different art form, isn't it? I love books as well as movies and want to enjoy them in different ways.

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