Organizing your material and scenes and chapters
by Jean Kelly
Question: I have a tendency to write scenes at random. In other words, no order at all, but as they come to me.
What I have by the time I'm half way through my manuscript is almost overwhelming in its...messiness and disorder.
The problem is - How do I decide their final order?
I'm considering asking someone from my writers' circle to read my scenes and advise on what they think might work and be most effective.
I think somebody not so 'close' to the story might find it easier.
But I don't really know.
Any advice or suggestions would be welcome.
The simplest approach is to write a brief summary of each event in the story on a separate index card. (Notice I say "event" rather than "scene." An event is a significant change, an action or decision that affects what happens next. Some scenes contain several events.)
Using the index cards, experiment with arranging the events in various ways until you find an order that makes the best sense of the story.
Most likely, you will find that the best order conforms to the basic 4-act story structure. See this article on the W-plot for information about how this works...
Also check out this article on how the 4 throughlines work in a story...
Note that story structure is recursive. A story is one big event divided into a sequence of smaller events, each of which may be divided into a smaller sequence of events. Each major event should therefore be a stepping stone in a bigger arc, whether that arc is the main plot or a character's inner growth, or the unfolding of a relationship.
Comparing your scenes with the plot structure models helps you discover if you have any plot holes -- if there are arcs with missing steps. It can also tell you if you have any scenes that are extraneous.
Best of luck.