24 June 2012

Scene Synergy

I'm still in the process of finalising my first draft: working through my scenes, putting them in order and adding or removing bits and pieces. I've been a bit stuck this week on the second half of act 2 - when the action really ramps up and all the different character arcs collide. It's been a challenge sorting out the order of these important scenes to ensure each one leads on to the other, and each character isn't left without anything to do for too long. I also need to make sure they are communicating with each other in a timely fashion, and that the consequences of their actions, both together (I mean the hero and heroine) and separately make chronological sense.

You'd think this would all flow rather organically, but alas, it hasn't. My scene notecards were helpful to a point, but now I've put a spreadsheet together which details the scenes in each chapter, including word count, point of view and synopsis. It's only when I break down all the bits and pieces I've written into chapters that the pictures is clear enough to me. I can then see that my hero has too much screen time at once, for example, or that it doesn't make sense for the antagonist to react in a particular way until later in the story. Then I just have to literally jot down different scene orders to see how to make it work.

I'm happy to say I think I've figured it out today, but it's taken quite a lot of moving things around, and splitting up a couple of scenes to delay some consequences. Now I need to make sure it actually flows when I read it - I'm sure there is plenty of further tweaking to be done! I hope beta readers will be able to tell me if it works.

It seems strange that a writer wouldn't know the order of her own scenes - does this happen to you? What's your method for sorting it all out?


  1. It happens to me all the time. I'm certainly not as organized as you (pantster) but there are times when a ms is giving me a particularly hard time and I usually attribute it to the fact it's not "reading" right. Then I play the "what if" game. What if I moved that scene here, or the heroine there, or the butler there. It eventually works itself out.

  2. I know my scenes well. It doesn't happen very often to me - BUT it has happened.

    I agree with Anne, just work with it and it will eventually work itself out.

  3. I'm a pantser too Anne (that's why I have all these random scenes to put in order), I just try to make sure the end product fits into a good structure.

    Thanks both of you for stopping by :-)

  4. Oh, all the time. I've tried many different ways, but the only thing that seems to work for me is to just keep plugging away!

  5. My scene orders always end up shifting at least a little after the first draft. And I'm even a plot-by-chapter kind of person (kind of. Not detailed plots). But once I get in there and see cause and effect and pace...something always has to move.

    But that's awesome that you've got it all rearranged now :-D