Surrendering to Scenes

I’ve held out for a long time against all this advice (indeed against the downright assumption) that all writing ought to be done in scenes.

“But I write in chapters!” I cried. “Why should I bother with fiddly little bits of scenes when I can see the whole chapter in one lump and just work from that?”

Then I thought “well, I’ll just try out Scrivener, everyone raves about it so.”

Scrivener is set up so that you do your plotting on virtual note cards. A single note card isn’t big enough to hold all the stuff that goes on in a chapter (unless your chapters are very small indeed.) And presto, I found myself plotting in smaller chunks. Then I found that my smaller chunks corresponded to segments of about 1000-1500 words.

Suddenly I knew how many cards I had to fill to create a story of any given length. Wow! I didn’t even realise I needed to know that until I knew it.

Plus, I can do 1000-1500 words in a go, which means I can write one (oh, God, let’s just surrender and call it a…) scene in a writing session. And that means I can cross off at least one card every day.

Which means I know how long it’s going to take me to write any project. 60 scenes = at most 60 days = 60,000-90,000 words.

All of which gives me such a heady sense of control you wouldn’t believe it. Plus, there’s the instant reward and gratification – the daily sense of achievement – of making measurable progress.

Sometimes, in the middle of a novel, it feels as if I’ve been going forever and there’s still forever left to go – that I’ll be stuck like one of those anxiety dreams, driving, driving, never able to find the turn off or get home. With this, every day the scenes left to write will be going down. I’ll know how many days I have to go. I won’t have to panic and run around tearing at my hair and ranting about how impossible it all is and how I ought to just pack it in and take up bonsai forestry instead.

I may still do so anyway, because that’s just me. But here and now I throw up my hands in a melodramatic manner and admit that OK, you did tell me. No, I know I didn’t listen, but yes, you were right. Scenes may actually be a very similar thing to sliced bread.

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[…] times, when I see this level of craft that authors use. I think that I should be working like this. Alex Beecroft has blogged about how she plots every chapter, every scene onto cards and ends up with a whole […]

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