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Writing in Chapters vs Breaking It Up Later

The question of the day is about writing in chapters vs banging out the whole manuscript and dividing it up after the fact. Which do I do? Neither. I write in scenes.

This is partially because I’m a plotter, and write to an outline. The way I break up the outline has more to do with story beats, which I convert into scenes that need to happen or, more precisely, things that need to happen within scenes. Looking at the novel as a road trip, they’re the scheduled stops.

Some of this also has to do with the way Scrivener works.  I tend to create three folders, labeled Act I, Act II, and Act III. I stick blank documents titles with the beats and some notes on what has to happen in those folder, in order. As I write I add documents for the scenes in between.

At the heart of this methodology, though, it my executive dysfunction. I cannot write in chunks larger than my mind can keep track of. It’s the same reason that I’m an outliner, and why I keep using the road trip analogy. I need to be able to see what’s going on, to know where I am, and not get turned around. Writing one scene at a time, all I need to worry about is the context of the scene in relation to the overall story. I can’t try to hold the whole book, act, or even chapter in my mind or I’ll be overwhelmed with the scope and details.

Writing in Chapters vs Breaking It Up Later

With the current work-in-progress I will likely group scenes together into chapters based on some combination of story flow, location, time period, and theme. I guess this makes it closer to writing in chapters, on a smaller scale. It works for me, so far, and that’s all that matters at this point.

Okay reader, how do you structure your novel? You don’t have to be a participant in The Merry Writer game to play along here!

The Merry Writer is a writer’s game on Twitter run by Ari Meghlen (@arimeghlen) and Rachel Poli (@RPoli3). Each day there’s a new question, and each month there’s a new theme. In these posts I expand upon the answers that I’ve posted on my Twitter.

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Journal

The Program I Use to Write Novels

This post is not sponsored or an advertisement. It’s a response to a question that I’ve been asked. The program I use to write novels, specifically my current work-in-progress, is Scrivener. Key features make me prefer it over MS Word or Google Docs, and I use it for almost all of my writing projects.

The binder is the first feature I adore. There’s a left-hand column where I can organize the book into separate documents and even folders. This allows me to create chapters and even scenes, move them around easily, and see where I’m at in the process. A research folder is automatically created. Your word count doesn’t include that information.

Projects statistics and targets are the next must-haves. There’s a word count listed at the bottom of each document, but as noted above, a manuscript can be broken into several documents. Using project tools allows me to find out how large the total MS is. I can set a word count goal for the overall project, or for a single writing session, and it will alert me when I’ve reached it.

The right-hand sidebar shows document notes. Toggling the display shows project notes. This feature is handy. I want to remember where I was headed with a scene or chapter when I have to stop writing. It’s also handy for noting research I need to do, when I don’t want to break the flow to go look something up.

The Program I Use to Write Novels

There are tons of other features, but those are the ones I use the most. It has its drawbacks, too. The spellcheck is crap, as is the search function. Overall, though, it’s a solid tool. Scrivener allows me to organize the work-in-progress. I don’t invite distractions by having to shift to other programs or open other documents.


Okay reader, what programs do you use write your novel? You don’t have to be a participant in The Merry Writer game to play along here!

The Merry Writer is a writer’s game on Twitter run by Ari Meghlen (@arimeghlen) and Rachel Poli (@RPoli3). Each day there’s a new question, and each month there’s a new theme. In these posts I expand upon the answers that I’ve posted on my Twitter.