Thursday, May 14, 2009

Writing: you call that a scene?

I posted a version of this to the yWriter 5 group earlier today, but realised it might be useful to others outside that list.

I've been working extra hard on my novel for the past week or so, and after much editing and re-editing I suddenly realised that working on dozens of scenes with 1500-3000 words in each is not much fun. After a few dozen changes to each scene, usually involving a bunch of new notes and comments, it's impossible to do anything with such big chunks of text unless I reread them to work out what I've stuck in there - and all that re-reading takes time.

So, today I took a dozen scenes from my WIP and broke them down into 35-45 much shorter snippets, each containing just 200-400 words. Each snippet is a logical piece of a scene, encompassing one or more events, and the description field in yWriter5 tells me exactly what that scene contains.

Obviously they'll be combined back into larger scenes again before the book is done, but in the meantime I can work on much smaller chunks of text, which makes it much easier to edit them (How long does it take to re-read 200 words? Most emails are longer than that!), and who can possibly procrastinate about sitting down to write 200-300 words of fiction? Especially when you have a one-line sentence telling you what those 200-300 words have to achieve.

It's all trickery of the mind, but the brain is all that stands between a writer and their next completed novel, so I say get tricking.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)


Anton Gully said...

I might be crazy but I seem to recall that when PG Wodehouse was writing a story he would write each paragraph on a postcard that he fixed in left to right order on to a board. Paragraphs he was happy with he pinned at the top of the board and those he was unhappy with at the bottom. He'd rewrite each paragraph until each one was at the top of the board.

If you're breaking the book into this much detail I'm guessing you won't be making many changes to the plot, "just" polishing.

Simon Haynes said...

I'm supposed to write an 85-95,000 word novel, I already have 73,000 words of disjointed scenes and ramble, and I need to write at least another 50,000 to complete the plot. You can see why breaking that 73,000 words into fine-grained scenes I can thin out easily might be a good idea ;-)

Anton Gully said...

If I had 73k words of disjointed scenes and ramble that needed 50k words to finish, I'd give it a name, slap it on Lulu and call it first part of a proposed trilogy.

But that's me.

Simon Haynes said...

Ah, so you're familiar with my work ;-)