Editing the first draft – Create a scene list – step 4/7

Hello! For those of you who have just arrived, this post is part 4/7 in my ‘Editing the first draft’ action plan. You can find links to the other sections below, once all posts are live.

  1. Print it off.
  2. Have a preliminary read through and cut out any initial ‘waffle’ that doesn’t serve the scene, and overall plot.
  3. Create ‘character sketches’.
  4. Create a ‘scene list’.
  5. Using the printed draft and the scene list, assess each scene in line with a ‘scene/sequel’ framework.
    5a. Cull any further waffle. Reorder scenes where necessary.
    5b. Add in scenes/notes for key details that may have been missed first time around.
  6. Write a descriptive summary of the entire plot, from start to finish.
  7. Face the second draft with a new-found confidence that you will be able to write and edit with more focus and clarity.

4. Create a ‘scene list’

The name ‘scene list’ is pretty self-explanatory and funnily enough, means a list of scenes – who knew?!

The benefits of having a scene list are as follows:

  • You can look at your novel from a structural perspective, without getting bogged down in the detail. Detail is important, but there is no point in perfecting the detail so early on if there are holes in your plot and issues with your structure and characters.
  • It is quicker and easier to assess the effectiveness and goal of each scene when it is summed up in a few sentences. This means it is easier to recognise what needs to be changed, moved or deleted, as well as what is missing.

How did I write my scene list?

I had loosely created a list of scenes when planning my first draft (constructed using this framework), noting down the main scenes I needed to get from one plot point to another. However, during the writing process,  I wrote some new ones and cut some of the originals. I didn’t feel bad about deviating from my plan when writing my first draft because it allowed me to be free with my writing, which is okay because when it comes to editing, anything that isn’t relevant to the story can be cut. In my opinion it is better to have too much, and to be able to pull it back, than to not have pushed it far enough in the first place.

So, to create my scene list this time around, I took my original scene list and my printed draft, and I wrote one sentence summarising what happens in each scene, and one sentence explaining why the scene is relevant. Simple – see the example below. Ignore the ‘Scene’ ‘Sequel’ annotation at this stage, this is something that comes in Step 5. 

Those of you who have visited the blog before may remember reading my post about the new typewriter I bought (read more here), and you can see by the picture below that I put the typewriter to good use when writing my scene list! Using the typewriter offered a nice change of pace to my usual work flow and the novelty of using a different approach certainly helped keep me focused for longer periods of time. It was nice to have a break from a computer screen!


What will I do with my scene list?

Once you’ve made a list of scenes for your whole novel, you have a completed (ish) scene list. I say ish because in Step 5 we really start to work it up and get it in a position where it can help us redraft.

We will do this through: 

  • dissecting and planning each scene even further using a scene/sequel framework and deleting all irrelevant material
  • reordering where necessary
  • adding in anything that was missed first time around.

Ultimately, once the scene list is finalised, it can be used to ensure that the second draft is focused, structurally solid (no plot holes/makes logical sense) and is one step closer to being a publishable story. I think we can all agree, that is pretty darn important!

Now you are ready to assess each scene in further detail and get right to the heart of the structure of your novel. Check out the next step, Step 5 >>>>>>>>>>



6 thoughts on “Editing the first draft – Create a scene list – step 4/7

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