How to Create Effective Scenes and Chapters in Your Novel

creating scenes and chapters

Creating scenes and chapters.

About the Author: Idrees Patel is a 13-year-old blogging about creative writing tips at Writers’ Treasure. Check out his free series, Creative Writing 101, a beginner’s guide to creative writing.

Fiction writing is one of the most popular forms of creative writing. Everyone is trying to write some fiction, — novels, short stories, novelettes, novellas, micro-fiction, and even Twitter fiction. Events like NaNoWriMo are becoming wildly popular. More and more novels are written every month.


But out of all the average work, how do you make your novel stand out?

You know the answer, of course. By making it your own and as perfect as possible. A novel can be made as perfect as possible by learning the art of fiction writing and then editing like mad.

Editing is tough work. Any writer can edit a 500-word blog post, but some freak out at the thought of editing an entire novel. It’s tough. Many writers even think it’s impossible to edit something like that, especially those who enjoy the writing but don’t like revisions.

But editing and proofreading are essential and will come more easily if you know good grammar, spelling, and punctuation. If you understand concepts like structure and plot holes, editing will be even smoother.  And if you have knowledge of various fiction writing elements, that’s just awesome.

But there’s one more little trick that will help writers edit novels more easily: create scenes and chapters. If you create effective scenes and chapters in your first draft, you’ll be well on your way to better editing.

First off, what are scenes and chapters?

What are Scenes?

I’ll just let Wikipedia give you the definition here:

“In fiction, a scene is a unit of drama. A sequel is what follows; an aftermath. Together, scene and sequel provide the building blocks of plot for short stories, novels, and other forms of fiction.”

Scenes are indispensable when writing a novel. A novel is lengthy, about 80,000-130,000 words. Scenes are usually only 400-500 words long. You can easily edit a scene rather than editing the whole manuscript at once, which makes editing more manageable. During the editing process, you can check for structure, flow, characters, and plot holes. You can also break up one scene into two or more scenes if you want the editing process even more simplified. Don’t worry about making your scenes too short because you can always make them one again when the work is done. Easy.

Scenes in plays are similar to scenes in novels. If you write a short section in which something significant happens in a single setting, then it is a scene. The scene directly affects what happens later. “What happens later” is the sequel. Here is a good article on how to write perfect scenes.

What are Chapters?

From Wikipedia:

“A chapter is one of the main divisions of a piece of writing of relative length, such as a book. Chapters can be numbered in the case of such writings as law code (like Chapter 7 or Chapter 11) or they can be titled.”

A chapter is usually made up of two or more scenes, although sometimes there is just one scene in a chapter. Chapters that have one scene are usually short, although that won’t be the case if the scene itself is long or elaborate.

Chapters can be short, although if you make them too short and have too many of them, they may become less effective. Extremely long chapters, on the other hand, can be cumbersome. Experiment with caution.

The length of the chapter may depend on the audience for whom the novel is written. Children’s books have short chapters whereas adult books have (mostly) long chapters.

How do you effectively create chapters in a novel? It depends. In adventure and mystery novels, some people like to end chapters on cliff-hangers: this is a popular technique. However, the bottom line is that you should end chapters whenever you feel a major shift in the story, whether it be a change in point of view, a new scene, or a sequel.

Short chapters are easy to write. As mentioned, they often consist of a single scene and therefore rarely become boring or complicated. Long chapters can be dull if not executed properly. As you write your novel, try to strike a balance so that each chapter is interesting to the reader.

Chapters make ideal blocks of text for editing and proofreading for the same reason that scenes are indispensable. You can create separate document files for each chapter (or scene) to help you focus on smaller chunks of text. I’ve done this a few times, and it worked well for me. But then, in creative writing, there is no such thing such as one size fits all. Experiment with various techniques and test your results. :-)

Effective Fiction Writing

Remember that while writing the first draft of a novel, planning effective scenes and chapters will make editing much easier. By including scenes, chapters, and other shorter blocks of text in your fiction writing, you’ll be off to a great start with your novel or other long-term fiction writing project.

Have Your Say

What do you think? Did I miss anything? Do you agree that chapters and scenes are great for editing if you create them effectively? Disagree? Got something to say? Any fiction writing tips to add? Then it’s over to you to leave a comment below.