1. Man in the Box
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    Man in the Box Active Member

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    How long should a scene be?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Man in the Box, May 1, 2012.

    My story is not based on chapters. Rather, I create separate scenes linked like a chain and separate them with a big "..." at the end of each scene. My question is, how long do you judge a scene has to be? Overall my scenes range from 1,000-3,000 words, yet I've seen members here mention that they have whole chapters of 3,000 words. Are my scenes too long or...?

    Also, I'm having some problems because I want to write the whole scene in one go (because I write weekly and I'm not a fan of details), but I feel I should maybe control my anxiety and just keep writing until I reach my weekly goal, not bothering with how far into the scene I am. How should I behave with regards to this?
     
  2. Nakhti
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    Nakhti Banned

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    Replace the word 'scene' with 'piece of string' - there ya go ;-)
     
  3. AmyHolt
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    AmyHolt Contributing Member

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    My scenes range for 300 words to about 3000. So basically I think that means size doesn't matter. :)
     
  4. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    You beat me there. :)
     
  5. Jowettc
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    Jowettc Contributing Member

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    One might call that a chapter - sounds like your jostling semantics.

    In answer to the question, how long should X be... the answer is that it should be just long enough to tell the story - whether that's the story of the scene, the story of a group of scenes, or the story of the plot.

    Sounds like your scenes have too much in them, but I couldn't say without seeing a post.

    Don't get hung up on word counts - it is what it is - the story is KING / QUEEN / NON GENDER SPECIFIC RULER in all cases.
     
  6. Ettina
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    Ettina Active Member

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    With regards to writing scenes in one go, I wouldn't worry about that. Just reread what you've written so far of the scene - I actually find a half-finished scene to be one of the best cues to get me started on writing, because it just calls out to be finished. So there can actually be an advantage to stopping mid-scene.
     
  7. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Heh. Yep. It should be exactly as long as necessary to serve its intended purpose. That's it.
     
  8. killbill
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    killbill Contributing Member

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    3000 words scenes, just make sure you're not committing sins like info-dumping or over description and you should be fine.
     
  9. thecoopertempleclause
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    thecoopertempleclause Contributing Member

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    I find it's the worst thing I can do, to stop writing at the end of a chapter. It makes starting the next one as hard as writing the very first line again.

    As long as it isn't boring, you can make a scene as long as you like. I just read a book that had a ten page section with zero paragraph breaks, zero commas and zero full-stops. It was the greatest ten pages I had read for a while.
     
  10. yaiilove
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    yaiilove New Member

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    When writing people must understand it doesn't matter how many words our contain in a scene but what words to use to grad the audiences from beginning and to the end. I have written scene with only a few hundred words that make a few thousand word scene look really dull. Boredom kills
     
  11. louis1
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    louis1 Contributing Member

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    If it is well written its never too long. personally i like to keep things orderly so all my chapter are 4000 words each.
     
  12. KRHolbrook
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    KRHolbrook Member

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    As many people have already said, their is no set amount of words. It all depends on if the scene has done the job it was supposed to do. I've read some books where a scene is just a small section--half a book page, maybe--while other scenes can last for several pages. As long as it's engaging, uncluttered, and gets the point across, then stop when you feel the need it should be over and you should move to the next scene.

    If you can write the scene in one go, then go for it, you can tidy it up at a later point. However if you feel you have to push yourself in order to continue writing the whole scene, I'd take a break. Usually people get burnt out on writing for a bit if they're pushing themselves too much.
     
  13. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    Make it long enough to get done the purpose you have for the scene. 200 words? 5000? Whatever works for what you are planning.
     
  14. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    Six minutes and 37 seconds. I timed the most pivotal scene in my story, and that's what it took.

    I will revise that time during the "polishing" phase. However, it advances the plot, changes the nature of thinking for the lead, solidifies the villain, and kills off all of the spear carriers.

    Yup, six minutes and 37 seconds. That's the watermark. ;)
     
  15. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    A scene needs to be exactly as long as it takes to fill in the time between commercial breaks! :D
     
  16. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Ahh. So the maximum length of a scene correlates to the capacity of a human bladder...
     
  17. live2write
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    live2write Contributing Member

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    I think this is why books or tablets are portable. lol

    I do not recommend writing a whole scene in one sitting. You never know how far you need to go or how much information that you need to describe for the reader. I often make several drafts of scenes and have my significant other read all of them to find which one is the strongest and which ones have too much or too little information. I will also review each scene and take pieces from all three to combine into one.

    Also the significance of the scene is as long as how significant it is the to entire story. For example in Catcher in the Rye one of the longest scenes took place in the hotel room because of the detail and events happening around that one room. If a scene takes place in an ally way, how many events are going on that is significant to the scene that ties to the story. What about books that have four chapters but as a whole are 250 pages long?
     
  18. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    Or not to show the reader. I have a very important scene which in effect sets a line of demarcation for the life of my lead. It consists of getting him out of a hospital bed to measure his feet.

    Your opinion stands on solid ground. I need the scene, the reader needs to be brought into the loop, the info is reflected in many future parts of the story, and the chapter is quite short.
     
  19. Luna13
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    Luna13 Active Member

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    It depends on how much you have to say about the scene.
     
  20. Man in the Box
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    Man in the Box Active Member

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    I've always had the impression that important scenes had to be long, but you guys and girls have made me realise that this is probably a very simplistic view.

    I'm in the midst of writing an important scene which will set up the end of the first part of the book, and I had the belief it had to be long because of how much is happening in it. Then, I also bloat the scene introduction a bit to include background notes (because IMO it's a scene that requires me to create a setting and build tension), but I also do it in fear that the resulting work might end too short. I know I can always add later, but I'm the kind of people who likes to get it perfect on the first try, which IMO is counter-productive and actually hampers me rather than help.
     

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