Getting Your Scenes in Order

Posted On Oct 30 2013 by


We’ve got one day until the kick-off on NaNoWriMo. You’ll know by now whether or not you’ll be ready to participate. You’ve created your characters and all their various goals. Created story beats to align with your Moral Premise–at least three for each goal. And, hopefully, you’ve got a stack of 3×5 cards–or an electronic equivalent–with each story beat coded and ready for arrangement.

Like I said, this next step, the arranging of scenes, can easily take a month of fiddling. That’s why I say don’t be concerned if you’re not ready to write 50k words next month. You’re a professional writer. Professionals do not take shortcuts in order to meet some arbitrary goal. If you are ready and your scenes are laid out exactly as you like them, then by all means, enjoy NaNoWriMo.

Arranging the scenes

There are as many ways to do this as there are writers. If you’ve got a nice empty floor or wall, I’d begin by laying out your protagonist’s main story goal. This often encompasses eight or more story beats, so it makes a nice straight line across the floor or wall. Then you can lay down your antagonist’s main story goal, looking for natural places where the two will cross. The concluding scene is a likely place. Normally, you’re hero and villain will meet at the end.

Do the same with every character and every goal. It can get quite mind-boggling, but you’ll start to notice patterns, places where beats should combine in the same scene. You probably have the story crafted in your mind, so you’ll have some scenes put together before the cards hit the wall.

Wherever story beats come together in a scene, lay those cards together so that you can see they create a single scene. Then move your story lines in sequential order. For the best effect, create four rows. The top row is act 1, the middle two rows act 2, and the fourth row is act 3. At the end of each row should be a major plot point.

Reference the Masters

This little blog is inadequate to get into too much detail, so I strongly recommend books like The Moral Premise and Save the Cat for some ideas on arranging your cards for scenes. I plan on getting into more detail next year, beginning in January, leaving enough white space for you to insert your own methods, tweak the masters so to speak. That way, we can learn and hone our craft together.

Okay? You’ve got one day to decide if you’re ready. Either way, you and I are learning how to master our craft. That is what I’m after. I hope it’s what you’re after as well.

God bless. See you in November!

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Last Updated on: October 30th, 2013 at 6:25 am, by Ron

Written by Ron

Just about everything I believe has been shaped by the written word. But books don't force a belief; they stir the imagination so that you, the reader, eventually draw your own conclusions. We grow richer in spirit when we read, deeper in our understanding of the universe and our role in it. That's why I read. That's why I write. To offer you a bit of myself. Come along on my journey, won't you? There's plenty of room.

3 responses to “Getting Your Scenes in Order

  1. Ron, I’m ordering The Moral Premise and Save the Cat today! I’ve gotten so much out of your series of posts. Some of it has been percolating in my brain for awhile, but I think I needed to see the practical steps laid out.

    Something surprised me when I did my story beats. What I thought was my story goal wasn’t. It only needed three beats. But another of my MC’s goals required seven beats. When I looked more closely I realized that everything else hinges on that one goal, and I would never have figured that out if I hadn’t done the beats.

    Sorry for such a long comment. 🙂

    • Long replies are welcome Melanie! Yes, this is exactly why the beats are so helpful. Imagine writing 200 pages before you realize you’ve got the wrong character as your protagonist, or the real story goal is not what you expected. I’m thinking of starting a series called “The 6 month Novel” beginning in January. We can really slow down and go through the process. Of course, we’ll keep it flexible so that readers can tweak it to their liking. Every writer is different. But I do believe every writer needs a plan.