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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

How Long Are Your Chapters? And How Many Scenes Make a NaNo Novel?

I'm considering NaNo again this year. Last year I listed thirty-nine scene ideas on one sheet of paper (using both sides) which I used as a jumping-off spot to write my 50K WC novel. Some items morphed into others and only a handful didn't get used at all.

Not bad for someone who had no clue as of October 25, 2011 about what to write come November 1.

Fast forward another year. I'm again wondering what my new tale will be. Which is a separate task, on a more creative level. I plan to brainstorm and mind map my way through that.

But purely from a plotting purview, by a pantster no less, it got me to thinking. How many scenes do I need to reach the magical NaNo mark? So I decided to get some quick stats from my own creations.

First, I checked out how long my chapters were, on average, in my published fiction, one novel and one short story.

Eerily enough, both have chapters that average twelve double-spaced pages.

I find that fascinating.

This is hardwired in me. I didn't learn this.

I discovered it. Just today. Not an hour ago.

And I don't try to make all my chapters "even." I normally break text so it ends on a good hook or at a nice place in the action, not because it is twenty pages later. Now if it happens again on the next page, then I compare the two proposed endings and move my chapter ending to the one I deem "best."

So while I wouldn't create a single-page chapter, I don't usually worry about the length of one unless it falls in the extremely short or long category compared to the rest.

What about scenes? you may ask. That was the second thing I tracked. I found two per short story chapter, whereas I had four per novel chapter.

Which in NaNo-speak means I will need approximately eighty scenes to complete a 50K WC novel.

Good. That gives me something concrete to work toward as I outline this year's NaNo project. If I participate online, that is.

I still need the idea for the story . . . .

Denise Barker, author + blogger + copy editor

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