Archive | July, 2011

How Many Scenes Does Your Novel Need?

Is there a rule on how many scenes your novel requires? What are the typical number of scenes in a novel and how do you know if you’ve got too many or too few?

David posted this question on my “Ask A Question For My Blog” page:

I am finishing up the scene list spreadsheet you recommend in the snowflake model for writing fiction. I am super excited to move on to the next stage, the actual writing. However, I have found that I only have about 60 scenes, and you mention that you normally have over 100 for your novels. Is this too few? Do numbers of scenes vary greatly from novel to novel? Am I possibly not understanding something about scenes that I need to know? I have a page estimate of 320-350 pages, so the novel won’t be short. Furthermore, the scenes I have outline the plot well, I’m saying I don’t think I will need a whole lot more scenes. Should I be concerned?

I know you have addressed what a scene is in some detail, but I’m worried that I might be puting too much in to my scenes if I have to few of them in the finalized scene list.

Randy sez: Different writers are different. Some writers have chapters that average only 2 or 3 pages long. Others are much longer. Since each chapter contains one or more scenes, that means that scenes can be very long or very short.

I’ve written scenes that were less than 100 words. I’ve written scenes that ran longer than 3000 words. On average, my scenes run about 1000 words, which is four double-spaced pages. Since my novels typically run over 100,000 words, that means I end up with about 100 scenes.

There aren’t any rules on the scene length, as long as the story works. You should write the scenes to the right length for your story.

I would guess that most novels have anywhere from 50 to 200 scenes. It might be an interesting exercise to go through some of your favorite novels and count the number of scenes. But a far more interesting exercise is to look at individual scenes and ask why the author wrote it to that particular length. Did she put in too much or too little? How would you have written the scene different?

It’s always easier to analyze somebody else’s work than your own. But analyzing theirs will help you when you go to write your own.

If you’ve got a question you’d like me to answer in public on this blog, hop on over to my “Ask A Question For My Blog” page and submit your question. I’ll answer them in the order they come in.