7 Reasons Why Writers Should Make A Scene List

7 Reasons Why Writers Should Make A Scene List

Scenes are the building blocks of a novel. They are the stepping stones that get you from the beginning of your book to the end. On average a novel has around 60 scenes. This, of course, depends on the writer and the genre, but I find it helps to have a number to work with.

  1. An action scene is, on average, 1200 – 1500 words. [Read: The Anatomy Of A Scene]
  2. A sequel, or re-action scene, is around 500-800 words. [Read: The Anatomy of a Sequel]

Often we are told to ‘just write’. This is great advice, but it gives the impression that your novel is a continuous stream of words. Words that form a solid block instead of words that tell a story with highs and lows, a story that enchants, teases or terrifies us.

Scenes allow us to build tension, create intrigue, and increase pace, block by block. You should start by listing your scenes.

7 Reasons Why Writers Should Make A Scene List

  1. Writing a list of scenes will keep you from feeling overwhelmed. A scene or half a scene a day is a concrete, achievable goal.
  2. A list of scenes helps you to plan. You will be able to see if you have too much or too little for your novel.
  3. This list will allow you to skip ahead if you are stuck. If you can’t get through scene 23, but scene 45 is screaming to be written you can jump ahead without fear of losing track.
  4. You can move scenes around. If you write a scene that has a beginning and an end you can move them around if the story demands it. Your list will help you keep track if it was a bad idea.
  5. Every scene should have a goal that moves your protagonist closer to, or further from, his goal. When you list the scenes, write each scene’s goal.
  6. Every scene should end on a mini cliff hanger, also called the disaster or complication. This gives you the next scene. This is usually a problem to solve or an opportunity to take.
  7. The list of scenes will sustain you through the middle.

Source for Mug

I start writing my list as I brainstorm the story. I do not start out with 60 complete scenes. I will have maybe 20 to start with, but as I write I figure out where I need to add information of where the subplots will go. It is my route map that helps me get from the beginning to the end.

So go ahead, make that scene.

Top Tip: If you want to learn how to write a book, sign up for our online course or join our course in Johannesburg.

 by Mia Botha

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This article has 7 comments

  1. Heather Sylvawood

    I really like this idea. It makes more sense than trying to list chapters. I always find my chapters move, expand or become redundant whereas the idea of scenes – well they’re vital for carrying the story forward.

  2. Rudi Ash

    I think you might have saved me. I have been floundering. I will start noting and numbering scenes immediately. Thank you.

  3. Mia Botha

    Thanks Heather and Rudi. Good luck.

  4. Ruth Anderson

    Thanks — the concept of thinking in scenes feels very motivating. Just so that I feel 100% clear on your point, could you give your definition of the difference between a “scene” and a “chapter”?

  5. Mia Botha

    Hi Ruth, there are about 3 scenes in a chapter. Enjoy the planning.

  6. Joe Camel

    The bit dispelling the “just write” myth was long overdue. Thanks for articulating it so well.

  7. Mia Botha

    Thanks Joe. Good luck.

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