Thursday, September 22, 2016

Have you scene?

My process in drafting The Ashes of Home has been quite different from previous novels.

Up to now, I generally think and write in chapters, and mark the start of new chapters as I go.

This time around I started along the same lines but eventually found it far easier to forget about chapters during the drafting stage. In part, this is because I am tracking three main points of view, and I found it more productive to focus on each one’s story without worrying too much about what was going on elsewhere.

That, of course, meant that I had no idea where chapter breaks would eventually fall.

What I did do, though, was mark where natural scene breaks might fall. Sometimes this was just a natural pause in the action, or a jump in time. Better still I’m always on the lookout for natural pauses that are also cliffhangers - the shock of an unexpected revelation or a sudden twist in events.

Yes, I’m looking for points in the story where, as a reader, I would desperately want to read on. Then *bang* new chapter, or even switch to another point of view and leave things hanging.



I did weave the separate strands together as I went whenever I had enough of each one to make it worthwhile. Mostly that was done to keep things ticking along roughly the same timeline. So now I’ve got a novel draft that kinda hangs together as a story, but which is a long list of scenes in need of overall structure. And I’ve got lots of notes about things I need to change, make consistent, or incorporate.

To help with this stage of the process I’m trying something I’ve not tried before. I’ve gone through and made a scene list.

This chart shows each scene with point of view, a rough idea of length, and a one-sentence description. Some of these scenes might end up running together, but I’ve also started noting which scenes would make ideal break points.

My hope is that this outline view will help to refine the overall flow (maybe things need swapping around a bit), work out where best to add in new scenes, and eventually work out how best to chunk things out into chapters.


  1. Hi Ian - it'll be interesting to hear how it all went and whether you felt you'd eased that overall flow of work. Looks to be a great summary way of doing things .. cheers Hilary

  2. Wow, you are so detailed.
    I never break my stories into chapters when I write them. I leave a blank line for natural pauses and eventually select the ones that make for the best break. (And believe it or not, I send the manuscripts without the chapter divisions to my publisher. I didn't know any different the first time and they've never protested.)

  3. It's fascinating learning how other writers work.

  4. Hilary, I'll be just as interested to see :)

    Alex, that's odd, because it never occurred to me not to use chapters. I guess I had it fixed in my mind that that's how it should look.

    Stephen, I like hearing how others go about it too.

  5. I tried the scene writing, sans chapters, once, Ian, and managed to get myself in a confused pickle. Now I stick to chapters but admit I have to keep rearranging them.

  6. Denise, it hasn't left me confused at all, in fact I found it quite liberating. I guess it depends on the kind of story and our preferences in ways of thinking.

  7. Mwahahaha *laughs along with you* I love it when chapters are so well executed that you HAVE to keep reading. Make it happen, Ian. Do it!


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