Chapters versus Scenes
Normally when writing a novel, no matter the draft I'm in, I write in chapters. But before I made it to the full length of a novel, I started by writing scenes. The first few years of my writing life, the part where I figured out I wanted to write, was spent either writing poems or writing scenes of stories I wanted to maybe one day make into a novel. But by my second novel writing attempt (also known as NaNoWriMo 2007) I was into chapters and continued from there. I still do some things in scenes. The romance/erotica novel I'm sort of writing at the moment is being written scene by scene and technically the blog novel "Cinder Story" is also being written in scenes for different blogfests. The rest of my novels all have been in chapters...
Except for NaNoWriMo 2010. Yep. This year I am writing my epic fantasy novel in scenes and not chapters. Back when I was at the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers conference, there was a workshop on editing where the presenter said he wrote his first draft in scenes instead of chapters. He wrote science fiction but I thought it would be a good thing to try for epic fantasy too.
But what is the difference between writing in chapters versus writing in scenes and why pick one over the other? I'm glad I asked. lol
A chapter is a planned (or random) break in a story that usually requires a page turn in a printed book though there are some exceptions. The online sources I've skimmed through say that a chapter has an average of 3 to 5 scenes in general, but I've never purposefully counted scenes when writing chapters. I just write what feels right and end at a point that makes sense. Some also say that all chapter endings should have some sort of cliff hanger and/or reason for the reader to want to read the next chapter instead of putting it down. They can actually be a variety of lengths. Some make it a full page and no more while other chapters can seem to last forever. Some people try to keep their chapters uniform in length. There is a member of a writing group that I run who tries to get around 2,500 words per chapter. I tend to fall in the other camp where I don't care how long the chapter is, though I do like to get over 1,000 words if possible because less than seems so short. Since this has become the common place method for my novels, I prefer to write in chapters.
Scene changes usually occur when there is a change in location, time, and point of view. A scene can be split between too different chapters and sometimes there is a preference to those that don't end the chapter at the end of a scene because it stops the motion instead of propelling the reader forward. Writing in scene helps with keeping track as to what goes on per scene with a little less worry over chapter length and how many chapters make up a novels first draft. Sure, the rewrite will later put them into chapters but for the get it written stage, it's okay to write the scenes instead of chapters. I fail a little with this, however, because I have a few "scenes" where I write more than one character pov but that's okay. It's a first draft.
Do you write in chapters or scenes?
Would you try the other way?