Before committing a single word to paper, take some time to outline. You needn’t have every single scene planned out before you begin writing–this is not at all what I’m advising–but you should have a rough idea of what will happen in your story. “Every scene in a book is meant to drive the action forward.” It’s a familiar refrain. (You’ll be hard-pressed to find a writer who has not come across it.) How, however, can you do this effectively when you have no idea what you’re driving towards? When you have an understanding of what your end goal is, it becomes exceptionally easy to determine whether a proposed scene will indeed drive the action forward or simply take your story–as well as your unsuspecting reader–on an unnecessary detour.