Laura Harris. Fantasy author.

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.
www.lauraharrisbooks.com

How to plan your novel’s scenes

This is a method I’ve worked out to plan the second part of my novel based on a mix of Rachel Aaron’s 2k to 10k book and the Snowflake method. Note this is more focused on organising & improving your planning rather than specific help with plot.

Prerequisites: 

  • A general guide to the events in your story that you want to turn into scenes
  • Spreadsheet software (I’ve actually used google docs so I can work on it wherever I am)

Work out your scenes

1. Create headings for: ‘Chapter’ and ‘Scene’ (also ‘Point of view’ if applicable)

2. Using your existing guide, create the scenes, dividing into chapters as you go. I find it useful to put border dividers between chapters so you can see them easier. I also use conditional formatting to colour the POVs so it becomes obvious quickly if I’m using one character more than another.

Improve your scenes (BEFORE you start writing)

3. Once I’ve completed all the scenes, I add three more columns (this is very much based on Rachel Aaron’s book): ‘Plot’, ‘New info’ & ‘Make reader keep reading’. 

4. You can’t see it on this spreadsheet, but in one cell to the side I’ve also listed the main aspects of my plot - remember each of these should be resolved at the end of the story. For my novel, this is:

  • Return of dragons
  • Both POV characters’ development
  • Romance subplot
  • Invasion

5. Go through each scene you’ve written. Every single one should be pertinent to one of the plot aspects you just listed, should reveal some new information to the reader (not necessarily to the characters), and you should be able to point to a reason the reader would want to keep reading. An example, for the first chapter of my novel:

Plot: Return of dragons, Giselle’s development.
Reveal new info: Intro to Giselle, show dragon in her head
Make reader keep reading: Mystery of what Sarra says, anticipation of another meeting with Sarra next week

6. If you find a scene which does not have something for all three criteria, either edit it until it does, or delete it. You can see the yellow highlight in my document where I’ve found a scene that is very lacking, and I’m just going to delete it and imply what happens in the previous scene. 

I’ve personally found that ‘make reader keep reading’ is the hardest one to work out, so here’s a few examples (which I came up with based on thinking of what makes me keep reading):

  • Anticipation of a meeting of particular characters
  • Unexpected jump in the plot
  • Uncertainty whether a plan may or may not succeed
  • Tension waiting to find out consequences of actions
  • Tension waiting for a decision to be made that will affect your protagonist
  • Show a key event (e.g. battle, wedding, treaty deadline) is coming soon

Using this method should (at least in theory) ensure that every scene is sound and adds to your story like it should before you start writing, which will hopefully cut down your eventual redrafting time.