Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Keeping Track of Scenes

The first thing you need to do to organize your novel is organize your scenes. There are various ways to do this. I know some authors who prefer to use a spreadsheet method, and others still who choose to write out 3 x 5 index cards so they can spread them about, but I use Scrivener which is great for organizing scenes.

Next, you’ll need to make some decisions on the scenes in order to manage them:

• When does the scene happen? (date/time)
• What happens in the scene?
• What order should you place it in?
• Which character’s POV will be used for the scene?

Remember, you can make a scene list whenever you feel like it. There’s no cut and dried method; it’s whatever works for you. I’ve known some writers who prefer to make a scene list before they write their first draft, and others who’d rather write out the first draft and then go back and create a scene list. I am more like that latter. I usually write through my first draft and then go back and review my scenes. But there are also times when I know what I want to take place but can’t quite see it through in my mind. In this case, I’ll make a scene list for this particular point in the book.

Let’s take a closer look at the decisions mentioned above to create a great scene list:

When does the scene happen? Each scene should have a date and time woven into it in order to keep the reader’s vision clear. If you’ve ever read a book where the character was sunning at the beach one minute and then walking in the woods in the middle of the night the next without warning, you’ll know what I mean.

What happens in the scene? You should write one or two sentences that outline the scene, just enough to know what the scene accomplishes. You want to get an overview of the scene at a glance as you look down the scene list.

What order should the scene be in? Many writers start out by putting their scenes in chronological order but there may be times when you find that it makes more sense to put them out of order. Having your scenes in a list format will allow you to move them around quite easily.

Which character’s point-of-view will be used for the scene? This is a big one for me. I tend to switch POVs as I switch scenes, and there are times when I’m writing a longer scene that I forget which POV I intended on using. There are little tricks you can use to track your characters. When I’m working a scene, I give each character a color and highlight their part in the conversation. That way I’m able to determine how much time they’re on stage and who seems to dominate.

Once you have a complete scene list of all the scenes in your first draft, then it’s time to go back to the beginning and start working the scenes to see which ones you’ll keep and which ones you’ll cut. What?! Cut?! I can feel your shocked brainwaves at the thought. As hard as it may be to believe, not every scene in your story will be deemed essential. Your job is to review each one and, setting your emotions aside, cut out those that don’t move your story forward. However, don’t be too quick to cut a scene based on how it’s written. Read it over carefully and see if you can breathe some life into it. If after all attempts at keeping it alive you still feel the necessity to lay it to rest, then draw a line through it (or highlight it) before deleting it. This will show you all of the revisions you’ve made for the next draft. Now you can move forward confident that the scenes will flow smoothly together to provide you with a better book.

Here are a couple of links that will help you in your scene writing:

The Scene Book: A Primer for the Fiction Writer
Scene Length: Short Scenes Versus Long Scenes
Writing Action Scenes

As always, thanks for stopping by. Please leave a comment; I’d love to hear from you.

All my best wishes for your writing success.

Dee Ann