The Value of Tracking Scenes

Last night I attended a NaNoWriMo Plot Party where we discussed various techniques on plotting and drafting stories. One of the things that stuck with me was a small discussion revolving around the idea of scenes in novels. Taken from Book in a Month the idea is that a narrative should only contain between 10-20 scenes total. If you look at current blockbuster movies, they have very little scene changes as they try and do more inside each setting than usual.

Today I pulled out one of my writing notebooks and decided to put my own writing to the scene test. I broke open a new pack of Circa storyboarding sheets (sadly, Levenger does not make these anymore) and sat down to practice this process using the past four years worth of NaNo novels. I sat down with each novel’s plot outline and started unraveling the story into scenes.

For each storyboard bubble, I wrote down a location and then listed all the actions underneath. Here’s what I found out:

  • In 2006, I had 11 scenes.
  • In 2007, I had 11 scenes.
  • In 2008, I had 8 scenes.
  • In 2009, I had 12 scenes.

What does all this mean? Well, it means that I am well under the 20 scenes of a modern day script masterpiece. (However, the quality of my first draft prose is debatable). This gives me a bit of a new quantifiable way to break down my novels and story structures to see what is going on and perhaps give me some insight into fixing any issues when it comes to the revision process. And using storyboarding paper is fun, especially if you know how to draw and can create images to go along with the scenes. (Sadly, my bubbles have no pictures yet.)

I have not started a plot outline for this year’s NaNo novel entry. But now that I’m aware of the value of tracking scenes, I know that I’ll try and have no more than 12 scene changes in the whole book.

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