Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Day 2: Drafting Scene Cards

*All information given during the 30 day challenge comes from the Writer's Digest manual "Write Your Novel in 30 Days."  Click here to purchase it!

Drafting scene cards for you novel can be a lot of fun; this is the time when you get to take all of those ideas that have been floating around in your head, all those little flashes of inspiration, and put them to paper.  Usually, in my case at least, your scene ideas won't come to you in a nice little formatted storyline.  The following techniques can help you get your scene cards written and organized into a structure you can actually use to write your novel.

Drafting Cards:  This seems to be the most common method for beginning novelists.  By writing a short summary of each scene on a 3x5 notecard you have the flexibility to mix and move your cards around until you've found the spot where the scene seems to fit perfectly.

There are other methods for drafting an outline; to learn more about them check out this fabulous article by Sarah Domet at the Writer's Digest website.  My personal method is a combination of styles.  I began my current novel by drafting scene cards, then, when I had a good feel for the flow of the story, I began writing the outline in a "Structure-Plus" format.  (See previously referenced article for more info on "Structure Plus").

Figuring Out Structure:  When you begin thinking about scenes in your novel it helps to break your story down into three major parts, or Acts.

  1. Act I, the beginning, is "always about the who of the story.  The entry point is a lead character, and the writer should begin by connecting the reader to the lead as quickly as possible" (WYNITD, page 57, emphasis added).  In addition the beginning should establish the tone of the story, present the world in which the story takes place (setting, time period), and introduce the opposition.
  2. Act II, the middle, is essentially "a series of battles between the protagonist and the opposition" (WYNITD, page 58).  In addition it should enhance the character interactions - helping us care more about our protagonist and what happens to him - and should get the readers set for the final showdown between protagonist and the major opposing force.
  3. Act II, the end, is where we find out if our hero really ends up being heroic enough to save the day.  The other purposes of the conclusion are to tie up any loose ends and to leave the reader with a sense of resonance.  
This three act structure will offer basic organization for your story - particularly helpful if you are struggling with where exactly you want a scene to fit in the overall novel.  At this point all you really need to know is if the scene will take place at the beginning, middle, or end of the story.  

Finding Your Key Scenes:  Another helpful technique to organize your story structure is to look for 10 key scenes in your story.  Identifying your key scenes should help focus your novel on the heart of the story (the major conflict between your protagonist and antagonist), allowing you to put aside your subplots and fine details until later in the process.

MY DAY 2:  Since I stayed up late last night working on my blog I decided to sleep in this morning.  Strangely enough, so did the kids.  They didn't wake me up until 8:40, which meant I could have had three solid hours of uninterrupted writing time.  That's assuming, of course, that they turned off their mommy radar this morning.

The rest of the day felt off.  I wasted too much time Facebook surfing, trying to finalize future plans via LONG phone conversations,  and - although not exactly a waste of time - playing with my kids.  (It was so nice and sunny today... an exciting change of pace from the cold, rainy days that have plagued us the last few weeks).  Let's just say I'm looking forward to starting with a clean slate tomorrow.  


  1. I totally recommend this method. It has worked wonders for me. I recently switched over from physical note cards to the note cards in Scrivener and now I love it even more. Everything is in one place without the fear of Little Miss Thing getting her hands on them. :P

    Thanks for adding me to your blogroll! That made me smile.

  2. NODS --> I do the same thing in scrivener.

    Certainly helps me plan my work. I can move it and delete it as i like.

    Good luck with the writing

    Sarah Ketley

  3. I love Scrivner! I've been using their beta software for PC and I'm really looking forward to it's official release in July.

    Thanks for the comment and the well-wishes. :)