Building a Novel – Scene by Scene

I have a weird way of writing

I know – oh, how I know – it would be most sensible to start at the beginning of a story and work my way through until I reach the end, but have I ever managed that? I haven’t – although, believe me, I’ve often tried.

My problem is I’m a sucker for scenes, and I always want to write the big ones first. That means my first draft is essentially the whole plot, but told through the main episodes – no linking bits, no descriptions, none of the expected ‘niceties’. Of course, those elements are added in – eventually – but I tend to think of them as extras. And I’m not a ‘descriptive’ kind of writer, which is why I tend to leave descriptions until the story proper is done. It’s one of the challenges of writing that I don’t find enjoyable.

But there are other challenges I really love

One of my favourites is retrospectively adding in hints about where the plot is going. As I’m happily writing the main scenes, I also make a list of ideas to add in further down the line, and later I’ll take great pleasure inserting these passages and watching them gradually tie the scenes together. As I tick them one by one off my long list, I always have a wonderful sense of satisfaction.

writing shed 3
Page one of my ‘To Add In’ list

Julia Green, author and Professor of Writing for Young People at Bath Spa University, came to speak to Hay Writers at Work this year, and I was so pleased when she suggested that it was a good idea to think of fiction in terms of scenes –  events that are happening, rather than have happened – and that each scene should move the story along.

It made me feel that maybe my weird way of working wasn’t quite so weird after all

Whether you take the straight forward route when you write, or if you write randomly like I do, I hope your writing is exactly where you want it to be. Fingers crossed, we’ll all get to the end of the story we want to tell one way or another!

Thanks for reading.


Sara x

Sara’s debut novel ‘Not Thomas’ – a story of child neglect, love and hope, shown through the eyes of five-year-old Tomos – is published by Honno Press in paperback and as an e-book, and is available to buy direct from the publisher, from Amazon and from bookshops.




11 thoughts on “Building a Novel – Scene by Scene

  1. Carol Lovekin

    I’m the queen of random writing, Wendy! Like you, I think in scenes. Mine get jotted down in no particular order. The fun is working out where they need to be. The jigsaw puzzle metaphor was invented for me! I love the idea of a list of add-in hints too.
    Good luck with this story – very excited to discover what it’s all about. xXx

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I absolutely think you’re amazing, my dear—I can barely put two sentences together and they stem from reality, as you know. I have the utmost respect for your creative spark…make that bonfire!!!!! Xo

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This was such a timely post, Sara, after all my dithering about NaNo. In the past, as you know, I’ve written either the beginning of a novel or completed one, writing more or less consecutively in chapters. This year, because the plan for the whole novel is not complete – and I am a planner – I’ve decided to write scenes from the book that are already formed in my head. This afternoon I wrote the first scene. 🙂 So thank you for this encouraging post and good luck with Book 2; I can’t wait to read it! x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh I’m so glad you’re a ‘scene’ person too, Jan! I’ll be interested to hear how you get on with writing like that – I hope it goes really well for you. And as for my book #2, the way I feel at the moment, it might stay a manuscript forever – we’ll see. Have a lovely weekend x


    1. Hello and thanks for reading my blog, Alis! I had no idea what ‘seals more frequently’ was referring to until I went back today, after I saw your comment, and looked again at my list. But it makes perfect sense – it’s been ticked off, so it can happily go out of my head. Phew! Hope you’re enjoying whatever you’re working on at the moment.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s