Monday, September 19, 2011

Three Reasons to Cut the Chapter Cords That Bind You

I used to write chapter by chapter, scene by scene. A sequential recording of events. Chapter One was always followed by Chapter Two, followed by Chapter Three. It was unimaginable for me to write Chapter Eighteen because I wouldn't even know for sure it was Chapter Eighteen, and what about everything else?

And heaven help my mental state when I decided that Chapter Four and Chapter Twenty-Two needed to be switched.

I now write using Scrivener, and love it beyond reason. But the first manuscript I wrote using Scrivener, I wrote the same old way. Chapter by chapter, scene by scene. Scrivener makes it easy to move scenes around, but they still needed to be renumbered and it was tedious.

By not writing chapter by chapter, I am finally free!

  • I can moves scenes around and when they're moved, I'm done;
  • I can add scenes in between scenes, and when I do, I'm done;
  • When I'm not quite sure what comes next, I can write what comes later.

If you have a plot concept, you are wildly ahead of most other writers, and can fill the story in as you go. I have found it immensely freeing.

Today, I'm writing a scene and the only thing I know is that it's important to the story. Where it finally gets placed is irrelevant, and I love it.

What about you? Have you tried this?

CR: The Halo Effect by M.J. Rose.

It's all better with friends.


  1. Hi, Peg,

    Doesn't Scrivener mean Mac? Or is it available for the pc-ers among us? If not, is there an equal out there for us?

    The other Peg

  2. Scrivener has always meant Mac in the past. It's one of the reasons I decided to go Mac in the first place.

    However, there is a beta PC version available. Here's the link (just remember it's beta):

    (Still loving that new pic of you.)

  3. I will check it out. Thanks! And thank you for the comment on my picture. I like it, too. :)

  4. I'm writing in Scrivener too, but I'm too anal not to write in a linear mode. But I may skip ahead sometimes if a future scene seems easier to write. Still, I like being able to move stuff around!

  5. I know I'll struggle with that, too. I have always and ever written sequentially, just as Peg mentioned. Don't know if I can break loose and write randomly. When I get that random thought for something in the future, I usually open a blank Word document and start brainstorming. Is that something Scrivener will let me do?

  6. Within my Scrivener project, I have a complete stream of consciousness plot development folder, a more detailed step outline (scene by scene) folder, folders for research (which I can import Internet pages to) and folders for setting and characters and whatever else I'd like.

    My scene binder (where I can move them around however I'd like) includes not only the scene title information, but is color-coded with the POV character.

    Everything is a click away.

    There are still elements I need to pay attention to (one of them being timelines, which Scrivener has developed a partnership with another software program to address), but I'm telling you, there's very little you'll be missing.

  7. I have never used Scrivener but I love this approach. I plan several novels at once and I find it easier to write "floating" scenes which may be connected to the current novel in future ones. I keep a draft document with these scenes during the creation process and just wait and see where it will be best suited. Although I do plan a flow I have found that the old saying (no plan ever survives the battlefield" to be spot on. Great article Peg!

  8. No can do. I don't know most of what will happen until I get engrossed in my writing. I don't plot ahead of time. My strengths are dialogue and character.

    I do have friends who like that approach, but it would confuse me even more.

    Morgan Mandel

  9. Tom, I can't READ several novels at once, let along plan them. My hat is off to you.

    Morgan, " . . . until I get engrossed in my writing." Those are the key words to me. So there is some plot concept that's developed at some time, right?

    So far, so good with this one. Only I'm behind in my word goal, so I'd better get busy.

  10. I've always written books inside out. Scenes come to me -- and I write them. Or they sort of come to me -- and I start writing to see where they'll lead. I wrote the last scene first when I was starting the latest book in my Biscuit McKee mystery series, to be released in November. Then I wrote the rest of the book adding scenes in any which order. I always wait until the book is done before numbering the chapters.

    Sometimes a scene shows up that would make more sense in a later book, so I just cut and paste it into a "Future Scenes" document. Every so often I read through that file and find gold (along with a bunch of trash, I must admit).

  11. Writing books inside out. Wow. Now that's probably something I couldn't do. To me, it sounds like playing the trombone . . . how do they know where to put that slide thing?

    It's a mystery.

  12. Could you describe Scrivener a little? I've always written by mostly following the chapter by chapter approach, but have been known to jump around a bit, particularly when it comes to the ending. The problem is - I write the old fashioned way - with a pen and paper, then I transfer it all to a computer for editing, rewriting, etc. I just can't seem to get into the creative mood without my pen and paper. So, I'm interested in a program that maybe will allow me to try to make the transition. Thanks.

  13. I love it when I get a direction for a new post. I'll have something up in a couple of days, with links.

    Thanks, Bruce!