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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