Wednesday, 10 November 2010

NaNoWriMo - 1/4 of the way - How do you write? In chapters or scenes?

Well here we are, 1/4 of the way through NaNoWriMo. With the outline I have, I'm ready for my second story spark, which sets off the action into the next 1/4 of my story. I must say it feels strange to be working with a loose outline instead of just a vague story idea, but my story is still developing well as I write. How about you?

This NaNo I've been writing in scenes instead of chapters, because in a first draft who knows where a chapter ends/begins? It is one of the first things to be rearranged in a revision and takes so much time.

So I don't know exactly how it happened but I've been writing scenes - SCENE - POV - PLACE - TIME etc like in a movie script with END OF SCENE. A great way to keep track of POV as I can get confusing with this I'm told. This also helps when I don't have a fully-fleshed outline for my story - I know I want a scene about this or that, so I'll be able to put them together when I want in the future when I get the sequencing right.

Clarissa Draper over at Listen to the Voices posted about writing in scenes recently. Go to this direct link to read her great post - ahem, not yet, how about finishing mine first?

If you're still here, I like Clarissa's movie talk. Think about it - a director doesn't shoot movie scenes in order - he/she just knows the scenes he/she wants - so do I. However, I missed the vital part that Clarissa inserted into the mix - acting out your scenes. Hmm, I can see that's a great idea when no one's around! Thankfully I don't have many people in a scene so far.
So when I write a scene I get enthused, asking myself what will the next scene look like?
 Clarissa's advice is to act out the scene yourself. Take on the character roles, spouting their lines. Clarissa says: 'Move around. You'll be surprised how quickly you cut out the unnecessary characters - especially if the scene involves dancing or running a marathon.'

Yeah, I totally get it Clarissa. Think I'll keep my characters sitting around drinking...something...

Wouldn't it be great if the book you write this way is picked up for a movie? Easier to see its potential for film if the scenes are tight and fast moving.

Happy writing all and I hope I've helped someone today...


This post is part of the NaNoWriMo blogline. Go here to read more NaNo stories...


  1. Loved this :) I write both in chapters and in scenes. It depends a bit on the story I guess! But when I'm enthusiastic about a scene I can't possibly not write it! ;)

  2. Just dropped by to say hello and wish you well with NaNo. Sounds like you have a very do-able plan going on :D
    Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

  3. Fun and interesting. I would love to watch you act out some scenes!

    I think I'm writing in scenes-in a way. I do it by character. The MC, the husband, the daughter, the bad guy, etc.

    I'm avoiding right now because I'm getting into the tricky parts where things are coming together to start the serious stuff and I'm floundering a bit.

    So, thanks for a brief respite, and now I'm off, back to the ms! Happy Writing!

  4. I think I've been writing in scenes lately with the NaNo. It's easier for me to get from scene to scene with the writing than to get from chapter to chapter.

  5. Great post, and lots of food for thought. I enjoyed Clarissa's post as well. I write in chapters, but occasionally do a stand-alone scene when the mood strikes. Am thinking I might try to write more in scenes for my next project :)


  6. Marieke: Glad you liked this..:)

    Jules: Thanks Jules. Hope all is going well for you. Be over..:)

    Words crafter: Yeah, ha ha I'd love to see me dancing round and acting out. Cool!

    Jeffrey: Me too..:)

    Rachel: Whatever works..:)

  7. Hi,

    I write in scene-takes similar to script-writing. It works for me, but if I start I have to get a chapter completed in the time alotted for that days writing. Chapters tend toward 5,000 word count, which gets paired each editing round to around 3-4000.


  8. I read Clarissa's great post too. Currently I'm writing in scenes but sooner or later I'll have to do some 'joining up' and I'm not looking forward to that. Writing in scenes has helped me, as I'm on my first novel and, to be honest, I wasn't sure where each chapter should end. Writing in scenes my progress is better.

    Not doing NaNo but I'm keeping the spirit of the month, using it to get more of the WIP completed.

    Good luck with the rest of NaNo.

  9. I write in chapters. But sometimes I'll get an idea for a scene and skip ahead and write that to make sure I get it down.

    Great idea though. When I'm writing, I don't think in scenes, but I do picture what I'm writing as a movie. One of my betas even commented on how I describe the scene as if she were watching the scene in a movie instead of reading about it.

    Good luck with NaNo!

  10. Certain plotting strategies do encourage writers to plot their books like movies to keep the pace fast. It's fun to write in that way too but not always.

    I write in scenes because that makes more sense to me. Sometimes one scene might make up a chapter but sometimes one chapter will have several scenes in it.


  11. Great stuff!! I can learn so much from you! Following and will be back soon!

    Have a Great day! :-)

  12. Francine: My chapters end up being between 3 - 4,000. Depends on how big the book's going to be..:)

    Christine: I've found it better as I always have a lot of work putting chapters where they should be with that Page Turning Factor. Good luck with your first book!

    Quinn: Sounds like you've found what works for you!

    Jai: True, sometimes longer scenes can be a whole chapter which makes good sense..:)

    Coreen: Great to meet you. The best with your work! Thanks for following..:)

  13. Hi! I found your blog thanks to the NaNo Blog Chain and I love it.

    I think I have to write in chapters. They may or may not survive revisions the way I wrote them, but it gives me peace of mind to be organized about it!

  14. Meika: Everyone has to do what works for them and chapters just get me in a mess. Maybe depends how much I know about my story before I start. Lovely to meet you..:)

  15. Yes that's how I began to see my novel in scenes that became the chapters. Great post :O)

  16. What a great question! I like the idea of writing scenes... That way you can order them for what effort effect you want to achieve. Writing chapter by chapter seems to make writing about events in the order in which they happen the only way to do it. I've actually heard of people writing the end of the book in the beginning!

    I'm glad your NaNo adventure is going well. Thanks for sharing your progress! I've been kind of sharing mine, as I have noticed others have. NaNo seems to attract bloggers!

    I like Clarissa's idea to act the scene out. Writing is acting after all. You play a character. You absorb a setting.

  17. Madeline: Yes, I think this is liberating for many..:)

    loveablehomebody: Thanks for NaNo good wishes. Hope yours is humming along nicely.

    Scenes are good, but chapters work for the more organised writers maybe. Thanks for dropping by. Been ages..:)

  18. I definitely do characters, my brain cannot handle working by scenes

  19. It's always fascinating to read how others writers write, especially when they're allowed to be as creative as possible.

    I think that movies have helped many writers simply because they all provide that very important mantra: show, don't tell.

    Working on chapter headings like scene headings is a great idea & I hope this will help other writers who may be having trouble in that area.

  20. Good post, and interesting to read the comments too.

    It is funny hearing how others work. I'm a scene gal through and through. And I agree with commenter Jai Joshi - a chapter can include one long scene, or several short ones, or even break in the middle of a scene and resume said scene at the next chapter beginning if that rocks my boat at the time. Where my chapter breaks occur can and does change completely as I go through the editing process. Average chapter length will vary from project to project.

    And yep, I'm one of the ones who also writes scenes out of order, and sometimes I write a scene towards the end before the beginning is anything close to finished...

  21. Joanna: We're all different that's for sure..:)

    Lisa: Yes, chapter heading would help. Thanks..:)

    Adina: That was very helpful. I've learned a lot from everyone..:)


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