Organizing your material and scenes and chapters

by Jean Kelly
(Denia Spain)

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.

Answer: 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.

Click here to post comments

Join in and submit your own question/topic! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Questions About Novel Writing.

search this site the web
search engine by freefind

Celebrating our 2nd year as one of the...

 Step-by-Step Novel Planning Workbook

NEW! Make Money Writing Nonfiction Articles

"I've read more than fifty books on writing, writing novels, etc., but your website has the most useful and practical guidance. Now that I understand how a novel is structured, I will rewrite mine, confident that it will be a more interesting novel." - Lloyd Edwards

"Thanks to your "Create a Plot Outline in 8 Easy Steps," I was able to take a story that I simply just fooled around with and went willy nilly all over, into a clearly defined, intriguing battle where two characters fight to keep their relationship intact, and try to find a balance in control of themselves and their lives. Thanks to you, I'm not ashamed of the poor organization of my writing." - Nommanic Ragus

"I am so glad I found your site. It has helped me in so many ways, and has given me more confidence about myself and my work. Thank you for making this valuable resource, for me and my fellow writers. Perhaps you'll hear about me someday...I'll owe it to you." - Ruth, Milton, U.S.A.

"I never knew what to do with all the characters in my head, but since discovering Dramatica I am writing again in my spare time. Thank you for making this available. Yes, it is a bit complex, and it does take time, but I love it because it works." - Colin Shoeman

"I came across your website by chance. It is a plethora of knowledge, written in a simplistic way to help aspiring writers. I truly appreciate all of the information you have provided to help me successfully (relative term) write my novel. Thank you very much!" - Leo T. Rollins

"I can honestly say that this is the first website that is really helpful. You manage to answer complex questions in relatively short articles and with really intelligent answers. Thank you for taking the time to write these articles and sharing them so generously." - Chrystelle Nash

"...had no idea that a simple click would give me such a wealth of valuable information. The site not only offered extremely clear and helpful instructions but was a very enjoyable read as well. The education from your wonderful site has made me a better writer and your words have inspired me to get back to work on my novel. I wish to give you a heartfelt thanks for How to Write a Book Now, sir." -- Mike Chiero