Top September Post: How to Make a Scene List

how-to-make-aI’m sure you’ve all heard of scene lists. Famous authors such as J.K. Rowling have shared their scene lists with the world. And scene lists are a game changer in your writing, helping you craft a strong story. Even if you are a die-hard pantser, you can still gain a lot from making a scene list. So how do we go about it? First you’ll need an excel spreadsheet, a piece of paper and pen, index cards, post-it notes, or whatever you feel will work best with your writing style. I personally use index cards for my scene list because it’s easy to add and subtract from and to shuffle around and find the perfect order. Let’s get started.

First, we have to figure out what our major scenes are. These can include the climax, turning points in the story, confrontations between characters particularly between the protagonist and antagonist, changes in characters, etc. Make a card for each major scene with a one sentence synopsis of what happens in this scene and the conflict it causes. Add any goals you have for the scene, like establishing the relationship between character A and B, introducing a plot device, foreshadowing, etc.

Now fill in the scenes to get from your beginning to the first major scene. Repeat, filling in cards between each major scene until the end. Look over the overall arc of the story, your main character arcs, and any subplots. Does everything make sense in this order? Move your cards around to find the perfect outline.

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Update your scene list as things change in your story. This will help you keep track of everything, but also lets your story unfold organically as you write.

Scene lists help us to both write and revise our WiP so I recommend you create a scene list before you start writing, but if you can’t bear to do that then make one before you begin revising. Knowing where to go will only help you get there. How do you make scene lists? Do you use a spreadsheet or index cards like me? Comment below and happy planning.

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J.K. Allen

Columnist/Illustrator at Our Write Side/OWS Ink, LLC
Julia Allen received her BA in Creative Writing and English from Michigan State University. She did her senior thesis in poetry under the tutelage of Diane Wakoski, but has been focused primarily on fiction as of late. Common writing themes that can be found in her work address identity and the type of strength that can be found in ordinary people. Julia is currently working on a Young Adult fantasy novel and can be found at local cafes in her hometown when writing, and painting, drawing, or reading when not.
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4 thoughts on “Top September Post: How to Make a Scene List”

  1. Sidney Aldaine says:

    I`ve been thinking recently how to start writing one story I want to publish for so long. This seems like a great place to start 🙂

    1. juliakyong says:

      Happy you found this helpful. Good luck with the story

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