Sunday Musings #8 – Writing towards scenes vs. word count

Posted on Dec 4, 2016 in Blog, Sunday Musings | No Comments

Hey guys,

We survived NaNo! I hope you achieved your goals – or if not, made a great step towards them! I came in just a bit shy of my target word count in the contemporary romance I’m currently working on, but I did move much closer to completing all major scenes in the manuscript, which nicely ties in with todays topic: should we actually work towards a daily word count? Doesn’t it make more sense to work towards finishing scenes?

Making progress towards a finished manuscript

It’s a recurring topic on this blog: how to best organize our work to keep motivation up and enjoy steady progress, from creating a writing system to using the power of NaNo for high daily word counts.

So basically, we are doing everything to add to the manuscript, day by day. And every word counts – it’s a great feeling to have gotten a tidy 1000 down. But it’s not the whole truth: what about making changes or taking parts back out? How do they count?

Some scenes are bigger than others

As we learned last week, scenes are the basic building blocks of our story. On a smaller scale, they need to achieve the same as the story as a whole: show conflict, development and action, and keep the reader glued to the pages. And to freely quote The Smiths: Some scenes are bigger than others.

Every scene needs a different approach, whether it’s an intense love scene, a chase or a moment of reflection. And this will also show in the word count: how many words the scene needs, but also how fast you can write it. Everyone will have their favorites, but also the ones that come a bit harder.

Make the scenes count

So if scenes are the building blocks of our story, then completing them and ticking of points in your outline should be much more of a focus than simply reaching an arbitrary word count for the day.

In the end, I advocate for a hybrid approach: set a word count goal just to have an idea of how long the total novel will roughly take you and if you are still on track for that, but work towards finishing scenes on a daily basis. Sometimes that will mean writing more than one scene a day, sometimes a scene might take multiple days. I’ve found that often I’ve been determined to finish a tricky scene and ended up surpassing the planned word count by far.

There’s more than just writing…

While a first draft is mainly about the writing, I do find more and more that my writing style involves a bit of reflection already at this stage. As I’ve said before, I am a bit of a plotter and will have a rough outline of the whole story.
In my daily writing, it then looks something like this:

  • Re-read yesterday’s scene(s). Make sure you know where you stand, and check in with your last work.
  • If necessary: make changes to previous scene(s). When re-reading, you sometimes come across massive problems that need addressing right then and there. Don’t edit for grammar or spelling, though.
  • Check the outline for today’s scene. Add detail if you need to.
  • Write that scene!
  • Create the outline for the next scene(s). Usually, this is something that I do at the end of the day (often in bed…) to be well prepared for the next writing sprint.

So all these activities are hard to account for by just counting words. A completed scene is a great achievement, and one that keeps you motivated!

Writing tip of the week

It’s getting hot and steamy in this week’s writing tip as I’m taking you to the bedroom… I love reading sex scenes, and I love writing them, but it is HARD! You want it hot, you want to feel the action, but you don’t want it to sound super corny, or clinical… Well, here’s romance writer Anya Breton to the rescue! In this blog post, she describes her approach to writing erotic sex scenes. And if that wasn’t enough, she also provides a handy list of words to use in sex scenes, so you can add a bit of variety. Must reads for all writers getting down 😉

Fiction reads of the week

Continuing with the Christmas theme, I’ve read so many wonderful Xmas reads (with a whole bunch more waiting to be read on my Kindle). Eli Easton has a knack of writing lovely, sweet, emotional stories. “The Mating of Michael“, and “Superhero” are my favorite books of hers, but all her writing is engaging. Her “Blame It On The Mistletoe” is a fun Christmas read, as is “Merry Christmas, Mr. Miggles“.

Bits & pieces

Whether it’s a scene completed or a word count achieved, I hope you stay motivated and continue to ride the NaNo momentum!

Books and resources mentioned in this bulletin:

  • fels“, the German translation of my M/M slow burn romance / coming of age story “rock” is out now, as Kindle e-book and paperback via Amazon!
  • You can get a free e-book by signing up for my newsletter
  • Disclaimer: All links to books in this article are affiliate links, which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price if you make a purchase using these links. There is no additional cost for you if you purchase the books via these links!

Session #7 – Give your scenes VIGORR!
Session #9 – Cover up!

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