Have you ever created a scene list of your book? Did you form it before or after you wrote the book?
I'm a HUGE fan of scene lists. I always create one before I write the book. Since I'm a plotter, I know the main turning points and have a basic idea of subplots before I begin writing. The entire list might not be fully fleshed out when I tackle chapter one, but 75% of it will be.
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Isn't a scene list a lot of extra work? Doesn't it take the fun and discovery out of writing?
Yes, to the first question. No, to the second.
It does take time and energy to fill out a scene list, but we have to figure out our story at some point--why not do it right away? And again, I'm a plotter. I find graphs, charts, and plot worksheets exciting. They don't take the fun and discovery out for me--they allow me the stress-free zone I need to work. If you're a pantster, you might want to plug your ears and leave the room for coffee now.
(If you're confused about what needs to be in a scene or how to plot one, feel free to check out my article, "Plotting the Scene," which is linked.)
So exactly how does a scene list improve your writing? Isn't it just a summary of your book? Why not write a synopsis and call it good?
Scene lists, although time-consuming to create, save you time throughout the life of a project, and they keep your book focused.
A scene list is much more than a synopsis. It's a map. It tells you the exact number of scenes (or sequels) you have in your book. It shows you how many scenes in a row are told from one person's point of view, alerting you that you may need to switch it up. At a glance you'll see overused setting locations (whoops, guess they were in the park five times already!) and vague plot goals. If you have fifty scenes, you'll know you've hit the mid-point too soon if you're writing it in scene thirteen.
Scene lists help you keep track of plot threads, sub-plots, pacing, and proper turning-point placement. They also give you a reference point each day when you sit down to write. That alone saves me ten minutes every writing session.
I've talked about my use of Microsoft OneNote to keep track of all research for a book. One of my pages is the scene list. I open the file alongside my Word document and flip back and forth to make sure I've covered everything necessary in the scene. I also leave notes in the scene list where I've left off for the day. For me, there's nothing worse than staring at a WIP with blank eyes and confusion. A quick peek at my scene list fires my brain, reminding me exactly where I need to pick up the story.
When the first draft is finished, the scene list can be extremely valuable. You can use it for a quick search of your manuscript--when did Aunt Betty give Jimbo the key again? Oh right, scene 23 in chapter 14. If your critique partner, agent, or editor asks you about a plot element and you can't remember the location, you can check your scene list.
Personally, I find the scene list to be helpful after I've completed a book. When I start a new project, I don't always remember off-hand how many scenes and chapters to aim for. It helps to scan an old scene list to refamiliarize myself with the number of scenes, turning point placement, and the types and placement of sub-plots.
Do you create scene lists? Why or why not? I'd love to hear your opinion!
Have a magnificent Monday!