Friday, March 12, 2010

Write in Scenes, not Chapters - Writing Tip

In the beginning, I planned everything. Then found that, for me, the characters oten had other plans.

I have learned never to divide my book into chapters until it is finished. I just write the story all in one big file. I also never pad the story to make it a certain length and I don’t advise you to do that either. Write the story one scene at a time. Then go on to the next and the next and so on, always following the action. Some scenes will be only a few paragraphs. Some will be several pages long. Mine average about five pages. Though they can be less than one and up to nine. If a scene runs more than nine pages, I know I’ve lost track of something.

Once the story is finished, I go back and put chapter headings in at scene breaks, between 15 and 20 pages at a time. If I want a three chapter sample, I can go and do that at the beginning of the book -- copy and paste those pages into a separate file called sample, and so on. But I don’t like to break the story up until it is pretty well finished.

The reason is that quite often I find I need to insert scenes in places I had not anticipated.

For instance: in GHOST DANCER, I had no plans for Elaine to come west. She was only to be mentioned as a reason for Christy’s leaving home. Then I wrote a scene and Elaine walked in the middle ot it, saying, “I’ve had a perfectly miserable trip!”

I wrote her out, but she kept coming back. So then I had to go back and write in a scene where she found out a secret and left home, and another scene to show the perfectly horrible trip, and so when she showed up on the train, she had been foreshadowed and the reader was ready for her – and not as shocked as I had been.


  1. This is very helpful. Thank you!

  2. I love this tip! I converted Loveland into a screenplay as a project for a screenwriting class. After looking at the flow of the screen version of the story, I went back and restructured the entire novel manuscript. Writing in scenes also inspires natural dialogue.