Every fiction writer has a unique process when composing a novel, but there are usually considered to be two main writer types; those who write “by the seat of their pants” just letting the words flow, and those who outline the plot first. I’ve always used a combination of those two styles, but as my writing has evolved, adding new skills and tools to my process, I’ve discovered the beauty of writing by scenes. Scrivener software is an especially useful tool for this method of constructing a book.
The first step in any novel is the germ of an idea, of course, but once you have that, along with a general idea of how you want the story to end, you can begin to lay out your scenes. In Scrivener, I label a folder for each scene I’ve imagined, with brief notes of what will happen in the scene and who is involved. My current work in progress now has forty scene folders in the project manuscript. Before I finish the book this number may shrink or swell, as the plot unfolds.
When I adopted the scene method, it was because of the forward momentum I thought it would provide, but I’ve found a couple of other, unexpected, benefits. Not only can I shuffle the scenes around to improve flow and timing, but if I find myself drying up on a particular scene, rather than staring at the computer screen in frustration, I simply jump to a scene which sparks my imagination at the moment. What I write in the new scene frequently resolves the block in the scene I’d abandoned.
The most surprising aspect of the scene method, for me, was how much more willing I am to make changes in my precious prose. Where before I may have been reluctant to change a scene buried in my manuscript, either through ego or laziness at the task of maintaining continuity, now, with my draft in individual scene folders, I find myself tweaking and rewriting with joyous abandon.
Whatever your personal style, I urge you to give the scene method a try.