Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Natural Ebb and Flow: What's Your Word Count?

with Seeker Pam Hillman.

Have you discovered the natural ebb and flow to your writing? Your rhythm? Your pacing? I’m not talking about the story you tell and how you tell it, but how long your scenes are. The mechanics, if you will.

Do you tend to write all your scenes the exact same length or do your scene lengths vary, coming in and out, long and short, like the tide?

I realized several years ago that I write 800 words between scene breaks. Don’t confuse a scene with a scene break. A scene break (SB) usually occurs when I change POV, not necessarily when I get to the end of a scene. It’s just how I plot. But that doesn’t mean that all my scenes are anywhere near 800 words. Some of them are far, far from that, ranging from 260 words to a whopping 1888 on my latest manuscript. I wondered if that was normal for all authors or not.

After reviewing several of my own manuscripts and getting feedback from some of my Seeker friends, I’ve come to the conclusion that varying scene length is the norm, and actually, a good thing. (Whew, glad to know I’m normal in at least one way!) But, honestly, I imagine most of you already knew that scenes varied greatly in the stories you write and those you read, yes?

But what I hope to share with you today might help you in the planning stages of your current novel…or the next one.

So, let’s get started!

If you’ve written two or three manuscripts, you probably have discovered your rhythm already. Being a spreadsheet junky, I already had my manuscripts logged in as words per scene and chapter. I knew going into my latest full-length manuscript, The Promise of Breeze Hill, that I write 800 word scene breaks (SBs). I knew the total word count needed to be about 90K. That comes out to about 112 scenes. This kind of information helps me plan where my major turning points will be.

The Promise of Breeze Hill
After I charted the scenes for The Promise, I wondered if my last full-length manuscript had a similar rhythm. So I charted Claiming Mariah, and sure enough, the average words per SBs in Claiming Mariah was 798.22 words. The Promise of Breeze Hill was 799.75 before the rewrite. Hard to believe that the word count between SBs was so close.

Claiming Mariah

So I wondered if other authors have similar rhythms? Even if they don’t chart their word count, if they’ve written very many books, they probably have figured out their rhythm. So, I went to the group I always go to when I have a question like this. My Seeker Sisters, of course.

Tina said that she tends to write two scenes per chapter for her category romance, with those chapters averaging 3500 words. Mary and Missy also said their chapters average about 3500 words. Depending on how many scenes they write per chapter, their SBs could occur every 900-1750 words or so. In spite of my spreadsheet tendencies, even my chapter lengths run the gamut of 1500 to 3500 words. Julie also mentioned that she’s writing shorter chapters these days, trying to keep her chapters to 2000 words.

Having the above information from these ladies was gold, but it didn’t tell me what I wanted to know. This only gave me averages. I wanted to see the ebb and flow of someone else’s work. Was I the only one whose charts looked like the tide rolling in and out? What really made me sit up and take notice was when fellow spreadsheet queen Myra Johnson send me some REAL LIVE DATA from two of her manuscripts. Remember up above that I mentioned that my average words between Scene Breaks (SBs) was 800 words and how knowing that helps me determine from the get-go how many scenes I need to plan on? It also helps during writing if I’m halfway through the manuscript and only have 30% of my words. I’m either not digging deep enough — or — let’s face it…. I’m not digging deep enough.

Well, turns out Myra’s average word count between SBs is right at 1050. (Myra, did you know that?) Myra sent me the word counts per scene for Castles in the Clouds and Rancher for the Holidays. Castles is a much longer book that Rancher, but regardless, Myra’s natural “rhythm” held true.

And, her charts look like a tide rolling in and out. Just like mine!


Castles in the Clouds by Myra Johnson
Rancher for the Holidays by Myra Johnson

Now, if you’ve read this far, and you’re frantically counting and comparing words in your manuscripts, DON’T.

Knowing your natural rhythm might be good for some, and others might not care at all. I like knowing that I need to shoot for 800 word scenes. And since I write in Scrivener, I can see at a glance which scenes are low on the word count. Even though I ended up with several scenes under my goal, I strive to up the word count on those to at least 600, but at some point, some of those scenes just felt done, you know? There wasn’t a single thing I felt I could add to them to make them better. They were short, to the point, and didn’t need “padding” just to make them longer. Sometimes, you just gotta say what you need to say, and get out of there.

And that might be MY cue to wrap this up. So, a few final thoughts and tips.

Don’t force yourself to write like someone else. Don’t take one of my charts or Myra’s charts and try to write scenes to that length. That’s a recipe for disaster.

Don’t force yourself to write long/short/long or short/short/long just because you read a piece about it here. Do what comes naturally to YOU. However, if somewhere along the way in your writing, you find that something isn’t quite right or the pacing seems off, then checking your scenes for ebb and flow might be the ticket to unlocking a tsunami of great writing.

If you’re new to writing, don’t take this as gospel. Don’t even try to grasp this technique or emulate it. Tuck it away and after you’ve organically written three or four manuscripts, then compare your own work against itself to see if you see a pattern starting to emerge. I didn’t have time to chart some of my earlier manuscripts that weren’t written in Scrivener, but I glanced over a few scenes and noticed that my scenes tended to be more uniform in my earlier completed manuscripts. I think that was my way of writing to the market and what I’d analyzed in my own reading more than to my own rhythm.

It’s also important to point out that in the charts above, there is usually one scene that stands out above all the rest. While I can’t speak for Myra’s work, I will tell you that in my own, those scenes are major turning points in the story — watershed moments, if you will. Those tend to write themselves.

And, finally, one other thought. I checked a couple of my novellas and my scenes average about 575 words between SBs. Mary also mentioned that her chapters and scenes tend to be shorter in novellas. So instinctively, our rhythm for novellas is different to our rhythm for book-length fiction. More than likely yours will be too.

Did I leave anything out? Did I confuse anyone? The floor is open for discussion! :)

If you know your natural rhythm for scene length, we’d love to hear it. And, if you know the range of your scenes, even better!

Leave a comment today to get your name entered for an Amazon gift card. Winner announced in the Weekend Edition!

CBA Bestselling author PAM HILLMAN was born and raised on a dairy farm in Mississippi and spent her teenage years perched on the seat of a tractor raking hay. In those days, her daddy couldn't afford two cab tractors with air conditioning and a radio, so Pam drove an Allis Chalmers 110. Even when her daddy asked her if she wanted to bale hay, she told him she didn't mind raking. Raking hay doesn't take much thought so Pam spent her time working on her tan and making up stories in her head. Now, that's the kind of life every girl should dream of. www.pamhillman.com


  1. Pam, that is fascinating! Not an author, but as a reader, it makes sense that different authors have different lengths they prefer and tend towards... It sounds like some of that is just inherent--I suppose you could train by practicing for different word count goals, but I do imagine that there are lengths that just come naturally!

    I'll have to see if I notice X-number of pages occurring regularly in some of the books I pick up in the future!

  2. Hi, Pam. That was a fun post. Don't worry. As a reader I'm not about to figure out the flow and ebb of the tides of the scenes. I'm much too busy reading!

  3. Missy and Mary write the same length scene as me? Interesting.

    It's also very interesting to open like ten Love Inspired books and see the variety in scene and chapter length.

    Anyone else besides me do that?

    Or a Jack Reacher novel?? OOH BOY. Now that man has variety as his middle name. Flip through one of his books.

  4. Fascinating that you compare your writing to the ebb and flow of the tides....those I understand living on the Oregon Coast :-) Even more fascinating that you figured out other writers & yourself have a natural ebb & flow to your writing. I'm sure it helps you along the way as you're developing your story!

    Not a writer either, but I love learning more about the mechanics (if you will) of authors! The more I learn, the higher my admiration is for all the hard work and dedication you gals/guys devote to your craft :-)

    Blessings to you Pam, thanks for the gift card chance!

  5. I did a similar chart, except measuring chapter length, when I wrote my novel for LIH. (I had been worried that my chapters would be either way too long or way too short.) I noticed a pattern: the chapters got longer and longer as the story came up to a turning point, and then the chapter length would drop back down, only to rise again as the story got closer to the next TP.
    I decided my subconscious was far better at math than I was, and figured I would let it take care of the length of a chapter.

    Trixi, I'm jealous! I would love to live on the coast. I have to make do with hanging out at the Sylvia Beach in Newport whenever I get a bonus from the day job.

  6. If I were a writer I have no doubt that I would be so obsessed about my word count that I wouldn't get any actual writing done.

  7. Great post Pam! I guess I never really though about the ebb and flow of writing. This is a post to tuck away until later and then bring it out to revisit and ponder.

    Happy Birthday Seekerville! It's hard to believe the month is almost over.

    Cindy W.

  8. I'm always gobsmacked in a good way by your proficiency for techy detail... because (as we know!) I have none... and the rhythms you have here are tide-like, for certain. And that's an eye-opener!

    I know I shorten scenes in novellas purposely because you have to get to the point quickly... and there's not much time to wax poetic...

    And my rhythm in my Love Inspired stories is different from my longer books, too. In Love Inspired we can only have hero and heroine POV, so that natural ebb and flow is intrinsically built in. But even so, as I move toward the end, I often slip in short bursts of the other person's POV (especially coming to and out of black moment) because it builds anticipation in the reader... so I intentionally break rhythm then, and it seems to work well.

    Like Mary and Tina, I don't keep track, but in the longer books I allow more room for the scenes (because I've got more room, right?) but also, I increase the number of scenes. That expansion for an 80K + book is FUN!!!!! But I do love writing short and long.

    Pam, you amaze me. Absolutely, positively amaze me!!!!

  9. Mary Preston, you make me smile!!!! You are absolutely right, we have to keep a balance between the story and the mechanics...

    I tend to smooth mechanics once the book is done, too. To make sure it isn't a total hodge-podge.

    Does anyone else do that?

    I think it was Missy who taught me to write without chapter breaks, just scene breaks, and then decide what works best for that story. Before that breakthrough, I was regimented!


  10. Hi Pam,

    Thanks so much for helping me to feel okay about scene and chapter lengths. What an affirming post.

    Thanks for sharing!

  11. Oh my word! You are a spreadsheet junkie, Pam! I love it.
    My chapter lengths are typically around 3800 words. Although I try hard to make the word count even between scene breaks, sometimes it just doesn't work.
    Yes TINA, I do go through my Love Inspired books and I'm surprised to see the variety in scene and chapter length.
    Great post, Pam!

  12. Good morning, PAM! This is fascinating! I've never tried to figure up how long my scenes are on average--although I'm consistent in chapter lengths. Nor have I tried to figure the difference between the length of a complete scene per se and what happens between scene breaks. This is a challenge that I won't be taking on in the near future with a book deadline looming. But this is really interesting, Pam, and has made me curious!

  13. I'm amazed, Pam, at the stats you keep! I couldn't send you info because I follow no pattern. Other than my first three chapters usually clock in at a total of 50 pages. After that, the pattern fluctuates.

    Starting out, I thought all chapters had to be a certain length. Silly me! I kept writing to fill up space so I could finally add the hook and move to the next chapter.

    After publication, I realized varied chapters are okay. My editor never mentions my chapter lengths. Some chapters are short. Some longer.

    I usually have two scenes per chapter. One scene in each POV. Sometimes I'll include three scenes, but that's not as common.

    As in most suspense stories, the scenes/chapters get shorter closer to the climax.

    Love your pictures. Hubby and I spent last week in New Orleans and stopped along the coast on our trip home for four days in the sun and surf! The ocean renews my soul. You pictures have me longing for more beach time.

  14. Good morning. Interesting. I love your books.

  15. Wow, Pam! Those spreadsheets are impressive...and overwhelming! I am the opposite of a spreadsheet junkie.

    I have downloaded a trial of scrivener but I find it a little confusing. Is it worth me taking the time to figure it out? I love seeing my word count as I type but I try not to focus on it.

    Here's a question for you all: Do you save each chapter as a separate document? I'm starting my second novel and would love ideas on how to organize my book as I write it.


  16. Fascinating and so "scientific"! I guess I never really figured what authors go through. I mean I read on FB about their word counts and all, but by scenes and averages? This is very interesting! Thanks Pam!

    Happy Birthday Seekerville!

  17. Pam, what an interesting post. I have never thought about this before. Oh, I've taken my projected word count and figured out how many words I'd need per chapter. Then, I've broken that down to how many words I wanted per scene. I haven't quite been on the mark in any of my manuscripts; usually, I end up with more chapters. :) But, my scenes usually range between 1500-2000 words. With a few being shorter and feeling "done." If any end up longer, I work to tighten those up when I'm revising. :)

    Thanks for the freedom to write how I write. I loved reading how you broke this all down. :)

    Please put me in the drawing. :)

  18. Neat topic, Pam!

    My 'natural' scene break is 1200-1500 words. However, since I'm a plotter, I know how many chapters I need for my WIP and if my chapter falls short of the needed word count then I revise one scene which makes it longer. Usually, not over 2200 words.

    I will say that I never have a scene shorter than 1000 words because I was 'dinged' by an editor on having a short, short scene. I had to revise it to be included information in another scene.

    I'm sure all editors don't feel this way!

  19. Fascinating, Pam! Honestly, I am never quite that obsessive about how long my scenes and chapters are, but writing in Scrivener does help me visualize how each chapter is developing according to POV and scene changes. Some scenes just require more words, while others are more like transitions or (if you're into Dwight Swain) sequels.

    Mostly, I just write the story as it comes to me. I've been told I'm an instinctive writer (which sounds a little more erudite than "pantser"--LOL).

  20. I can't believe you chart your chapters.
    Mind = Boggled

    But like I ALWAYS say, whatever works for you, works for you.
    God bless your orderly heart, Myra's too.
    Very impressed

  21. MYRA I like the Instinctive thing. I also like the word erudite.

  22. And my chapters might range UP to 3500 but many are shorter.
    And I don't always have scene breaks in a chapter, but sometimes.

    And toward the end of the book, in an action scene, I very often jump from one scene to the next. Hero coming. Bad guys coming. Heroine fighting. Or dangling from a cliff.
    then jump between three or even for of these shorts scenes for a chapter or two.
    To me that ups the tension.
    So I don't know how to count that.....ten 300 word scenes in a chapter.
    That'd mess up my chart.

  23. YES! I've finally met another writer who geeks out on spread sheets like I do. Yay! Thank you for your post today Pam.

    I've been writing in Scrivener and have found a tool right in Scrivener that shows a bar graph of each scene, chapter, and section, so I know exactly where each turning point should go. I've figured out where all the turning points should be in a Love Inspired novel and I'm using it as a template to keep myself on track.

    To answer another comment earlier on Scrivener: Yes, your scenes all need to be in separate files in order to use it as a running outline. I divide my manuscripts into four parts; three or four chapters in each, and two to three scenes per chapter. Scrivener will merge them into one Word document in submission format at the end. The advantage is that I have a running outline of my entire novel on the left side while I write and I can click and drag scenes around if an editor asks me to move something to another spot. It's a beautiful thing.

  24. I'm HERE! I was afraid my internet was going to be wonky this morning, but so far, so good. The satellite is out of alignment and I've got to get a techie in here to fix it. So, in the meantime, hoping for a GOOD satellite day!

    Fedora, so glad to see you here. And, yes, it will be interesting for you to see if some of your favorite writers have an ebb and flow to their scenes. Let us know what you find out! :)

  25. Marianne, that is so true. If the author is good, we don't care. But maybe just like a surfer who studies the nuances of the sea, us writers study the craft and our own brainwaves (<<<<hey, that's a pretty good pun!) to figure out what's working for us. :)

  26. Will catch up on today's post later today. However, wanted to post that Emily Rodmell is still critiquing 100-word blurbs on FB. Thought Seekerville should know.

  27. Pam, this is interesting! I don't keep spreadsheets. I don't even keep track of my chapter/scene lengths. But in my novels, my chapters are usually made up of 3 scenes, and usually come out to about 12-18 pages (longer in the beginning and shorter near the end of the book). So my scenes are 4-6 pages, which would be about 1000-1500 words. And again, they're usually shorter and shorter as I zoom toward the end. Sometimes my first chapter or two might even be 20 pages.

    Oh, and my novella chapters are shorter, with only 2 scene per chapter. I jus did that naturally for some reason.

  28. Tina, I'll have to look at the Jack Reacher books. Do they have more than one POV or just from Reacher's POV? Not that that really matters, but it does seem to make my SBs ebb and flow because I'm flipping back and forth between the hero & heroine's pov. And occasionally a villian or two.

  29. Oh, Trixi, how relaxing to live close to the ocean. You know, maybe this ebb and flow thing is the reason for the love affair between beaches and books. Subconsciously, we're relaxing to the gentle sound of the waves coming in and out, and the dance of words on the page. Long scenes, short scenes. And then when the waves come crashing in pounding at the shore during an especially tense scene, then wow!


  30. Good morning Pam, Your ability to use charts and track things always amazes me. I'm so clueless to that, however, I do have a pattern to my scenes so imagine there must be a rhythm if I knew how to chart it. LOL

    Have fun today, Miss Numbers girl.

  31. Jill, that's amazing that they're so regular.

    I'm gobsmacked in a good way!!!

  32. Good morning! I love all things Excel/Charts, which is odd because I am a pantser. How fun to figure out your writing rhythm (I'm also a drummer and tend to find rhythm in all things). I'm in a MUST FINISH ROUGH DRAFT phase but can't wait to plug in my word counts and see the results!!

    Have a blessed day,


  33. Debby, I do it that way, too.... I keep the opening chapters to about 14-18 pages each, to get to that 50 page proposal....

    And then I just write, weaving scenes in and out.... and using the scene breaks to guide me.

    Now sometimes a chapter will be 23 pages and others will be 14 pages, and mine are shorter at the black moment (generally)....

    But that pacing seems to work for the story and no one's ever said anything.


  34. Josee Telfer, I'm answering your question because I had that same question years ago... and at first each chapter was a separate document...

    Tina kind of gasped in horror because then I had to combine them all at the end, and it NEVER OCCURRED to me to just do one document because I was paralyzed with fear to lose it.

    Well, duh... that's what back-up's for, right?

    So then I went one document, chapter by chapter....

    DUH AGAIN....

    Missy (I think, anyway I'll give her credit) gave me the idea to simply use a scene break star or symbol and not do chapters until the end.

    For some reason, that saved time... and increased my word count. I don't know why because it's simple logistics, but it's so much easier to then go back and see where I think those chapter breaks should go... and then tweak if needed.

    So now it's one document, scene breaks only and then I fix it at the end.

  35. WALT!!!!


    Thank you for sharing that, did youse see his comment?

    Emily Rodmell is looking at 100 word blurbs on Tfacebook!!!

  36. Exactly, Evelyn! I agree. I let my subconscious take care of it, but I do like to know what's going on there. A bit scary, huh? lol

    I notice you said your chapters were longer, shorter, etc. What about your actual scenes within chapters? Do you remember if they're more on an even keel or if they also vary greatly in length throughout?

  37. Pam! Love this post! I'm going to look at a few of my stories and see if there is a pattern. I never thought about that before. I love charts!

  38. PAM, I'm not a spread sheet kind of gal like you are but found your post very interesting. And I'll admit a bit intimidating as I don't seem to have the same rhythm for scenes. I may have two scenes per chapter, sometimes three. Even upon occasion one. My scene length varies, too. i don't always alternate POVs. I'm not as tidy as you are, Pam. I know some writers have almost an identical page count per chapter. I never have had but my editors have never complained or even mentioned it. Except one time when I was told to add to a very brief scene and I found a way to enrich the scene without just fattening it.


  39. Pam, I keep track of my word count from every chapter, but I never thought to do the ebb and flow method. I think it would be interesting to do for my next novel. Thanks!

  40. Mary P... sometimes that's tempting for those of us who are sort of balanced with the left-brain, right-brain tendencies. I don't know about others, but I also seem to have a pretty healthy (undiagnosed, except by Dr. Pam) dose of OCD and tunnel vision, so regardless of whether I'm writing, balancing books or even cleaning the house (a rare occurrence indeed), I tend to go whole hog or nothing. Once I get into the writing and get in the "zone", I really don't think about how long or how short the scene is. Until I crash after about 2 hours.

    Then, I'm like... Oh, where am I? :)

  41. Cindy, it's definitely one of those obscure topics that falls under the "I never thought of that" banner. Maybe it's like breathing. It just IS.

    And this whole YEAR has just flown by! Ack!

    PS... My internet is on the fritz, so I had to actually get dressed and drive 10 miles to the public library to hang out with y'all today. The things I do for Seekerville! lol

  42. PAM, my head is spinning and I'm a little nauseous and sweaty just thinking about spreadsheets. Kinda the same feeling I got reading Excel sheets at work.

    My chapters tend to be 10 to 12 pages...sometimes 15...but no longer. As a reader long chapters annoy me, especially when I vow to finish the chapter I'm on before turning out the light at night.

    To chime in on JOSEE's question, if you put chapters in separate documents, it makes rewriting harder because you can't skip around to make changes. Ever change the name of a character or the spelling of her name? If you save your novel in one document, you can make an easy global change.

    As an editor, I've had authors submit their manuscripts in separate documents. I wanted to rip out my hair!!! Never. Ever. Do. That.

    On a brighter note, I brought pumpkin scones today...iced, of course...and hot cider. :-)

  43. This comment has been removed by the author.

  44. Ruthy, I suppose when it comes down to it, we're not that different after all. And, shucks, I wouldn't even have thought of this except somebody said something about scene length and we were discussing it, and I knew I'd be blogging. In my writing and in my blogging, I like coming up with obscure tidbits, so here we are.

    Yes, short scenes during a black moment can be powerful.

  45. Pam my favorite part of your 'fritz' comment was the part where you got dressed.

    I think we all feel a little better knowing that's done!!!

  46. It makes sense to me that scenes would ebb and flow. Mine certainly aren't uniform--as you said, some are short and to the point, and they wouldn't be improved by being longer. Others would lose something if made shorter.

    Not that this would be particularly applicable to my writing career, but as a point of interest, I'd like to see comparison charts of authors across genres to see if certain genres average high or low next to others. Would suspense writers tend to have shorter scenes than historical? How would humor compare to drama? For fun, I'd especially enjoy seeing a chart of fantasy satirist Terry Pratchett's books--he rarely wrote in chapters, generally only scenes, and some of them are a paragraph (or, perhaps once every couple books, one sentence) long, whereas others are a more standard length.

  47. Renee McBride! Isn't that the sweetest feeling to know your system isn't the only one. Although if it WAS the only one, you should still do it....if it works for you!

  48. I think of my writing as sculpting, chipping away at a piece of rock. And when all the details are there and I can see the sharp angles of each piece, then I smooth.

    And, Ruthy, I too write in scenes. Grouping my scenes in to chapters is one of the last things I do. And, not to beat a dead horse, but Scrivener makes this SO easy. All my scenes are numbered, with a short description, then when I get ready to put them into chapters, I create numbered chapter folders, and stuff them in there. :)

  49. Ah, Jackie has been set free! Whoot! :)

  50. Jill, I think I was more rigid in my scene lengths earlier on. I don't know if that was because I'd read so many how-to books or dissected my favorite authors, or listened to my writer friends, or agents, editors say that "generally a scene is XXX words".

    For the literal among us (ahem), we don't even hear the word GENERALLY. We zoom in on that number of words that was mentioned and we are in a bit of a panic until we are pretty close to that.

  51. Glynna, the deadline comes first. Always! Then you can play! :)

    Debby, my first three chapters tend to run between 40-50 pages, but it's not a hard and fast rule.

  52. Thank you Cathy Ann. Thanks for stopping by! :)

    Josee, I had Scrivener for almost a year before I finally started using it. I just wasn't totally convinced that I could write in Scrivener. And I was in the middle of a couple of projects on tight deadlines, and thought I didn't have time to learn something new. And the tutorials just confused me more. But I learn best by doing. "Practising" never worked well for me.

    Finally I started using Scrivener to write blog posts (today's post was written in Scrivener), interviews, articles, etc. I have a Marketing and PR file, with folders that say Seekerville, Claiming Mariah, HHHistory, Pam's Bio, even a sheet that lists all the links to free graphics. It's ALL in my Marketing and PR file in Scrivener. So if you write short stories or blog, or anything like that, you could start small.

    I had several novellas due back to back a couple of years ago, and decided to bite the bullet and learn how to write in Scrivener. I LOVE IT. I don't know all the bells and whistles, but now that I've just turned in my latest ms, I want to watch some of the tutorials again and go over my notes from a class I took with Gwen Hernandez. I was so green (and so busy) when I took the class that I didn't even understand ANY OF IT, but now that I've written 5-6 novellas and a novel with it, I can learn a lot more from the tutorials.

  53. HELLO PAM H. I try to be flexible and go with the flow.

    Have a great day!

    Please enter me in the drawing.

  54. Josee asked: Here's a question for you all: Do you save each chapter as a separate document? I'm starting my second novel and would love ideas on how to organize my book as I write it.

    I don't save my chapters as separate documents, even though I've heard of some people who do. When I wrote in Word, I wrote scene after scene, separating them with a ###. Back then, I was more apt to group into chapters early on than I am now. Before Scrivener, I also kept my notes and scene descriptions...LOTS of stuff in ... yes, you guessed it ... Excel, but all of that can be done in Scrivener all in one beautiful file. :)

    I only compile to Word now because it's the universal format to send to my editors. I do read and edit one last time in Word before I send it out.

    But speaking of Scrivener... I was discussing this with a prolific friend, and she said she plots and keeps all her notes, research, character sheets in Scrivener, but that she just can't write in it. Now that I DO write in it, I can't imagine going back to Word. But to each his own. But the only way you'll know is to try it. Happy learning! :)

  55. I am not sure yet what my rhythm and flow is.I'll have to check that out after I finish the one I'm getting ready to start for Nano.

  56. I'm not a chart loving girl...But I've found that 1500words has been a natural goal when I'm writing a YA chapter. Or for just one scene for any other genre I write. 1500 words is something I can sit and do 'real quick' and then get up for a little break before deciding to more on or edit.

  57. Love this analytical stuff, Pam! I'm not sure I know my rhythm, but I need to figure it out because it would probably help with plotting. And I love to plot and know exactly where I'm going and how I'm getting there before I label anything Draft One. :-) Thank you! (And I'm coming back this afternoon when I have more time to read all the terrific comments thoroughly.)

    See, I couldn't wait and backed up to read a few comments. Such great points on Scrivener! I need to dive into that. Thanks again!

  58. JC, yes it was very scientific. I'm applying for a grant with the Science Institute as we speak. This begs for more research. ;)

  59. Jeanne, take your freedom and SURF WITH IT! :)

  60. Wow Pam (and Myra),

    You spreadsheet gurus amaze me. My DH is affectionately known as "Mr. Spreadsheet" so y'all could definitely talk shop.

    Love your water theme too, since we're talking Seekerville and how all Seekers and many villagers have sailed from Unpubbed Island!! WAHOO! :)

    I'm on book 4 and have noticed this ebb and flow as well. But ~ I write MG (middle grade) and only in one POV, May's (our K9 spy Schnauzer). It's quite a bit different than what the majority here write and read.

    My first 3 books were very nearly the same length, between 32-34K words but book 4 had many more characters to develop so it came in right at 40K.

    I'd intuitively noticed what you delineate here, that each book has a similar ebb & flow. But I've never thought about digging into more detail. This gives me more to think about going forward...

    As ALWAYS... Seekerville makes me THINK! Love it!!!

    Thank you and happy HAPPPPPY barkday to all in Seekerville. We love you guys...

  61. I think my scene breaks are similar to yours, Pam. They may get to 1000 words because of my practicing with flash fiction stories. I tend to want to have two POVs even in the really short stuff, so it sort of splits down the middle at times.

    I like Ruthy's idea of just writing scene breaks and figure out chapter breaks later. Haven't tried it. I'm hoping it is as freeing as it was for Ruthy.

    Cool post, although the graphic artist in me shudders at spread sheets or anything too techy, which doesn't make sense since my graphics and animation get real techy, really fast. ah well...

  62. Rose, I remember flipping back and forth between the hero and heroine's POVs in Stealing Jake during a very intense scene close to the end. Again, I'm talking Scene Breaks that are mostly required when I switch POVs. There'd been a mine explosion and the hero's life was in extreme danger. It was the same scene, but I kept cutting away to the hero, then the heroine who didn't even know if he was alive or dead. Movies get to do it. Why not us? :)

    But even as I wrote those extremely short scenes, I wondered if my editors would make me go back and rewrite them, keeping the entire "scene" in one POV. Who would I choose? Jake, who was having a "come to Jesus" meeting in the belly of the earth? Or Livy, who was living her own nightmare as she waited topside?

    Some publishing houses/editors might have rules against short scenes, and I would always defer to their wishes, but mine have never said a word. I think the key to short scenes is that they pack a powerful punch and even though there's a scene break, the rapid back and forth makes readers not even realizing she's switching between POVs.

    So, imo, several short scenes back-to-back work well in an intense situation. An occasional short scene (sometimes more of a sequel) works well at the end of a chapter or when you need to show the h/hn's reaction to a scene.

  63. Pam: I really l8ke your post about the Ebb and Flow of your novel. How smart to compare the flow of words and scene breaks. I've seen stock market charts and business worksheets for financial comparison, but never thought about doing it to a book. What an interesting column. Bless you for sharing.

  64. Happy Birthday to Seekerville on this 25th day of October. Time for a midmorning snack of broccoli and tomato quiche and a cup of Earl Grey tea.

  65. Oh, and FYI, after finishing book 1, taking more Seekerville advice to heart and also finding The Snowflake Method... I now identify as planster. Don't know that it's erudite, but it sure saves me time. ;)

  66. Myra, yes, we're cra ... instinctive ... yes, that's it, we're instinctive, writers.

    Mary, I don't chart just for the sake of it. I'm not that OCD! lol I'm trying to remember exactly why I was charting my scenes in excel for The Promise. I think I was just under an intense deadline and knew there were some scenes that needed to be fleshed out, (y'all know those scenes that have 100 words and then you say "and stuff happens") but I was powering through to the end. Since Scrivener makes it so easy to see your word counts, I popped those into a spreadsheet, so I could make notes on the scenes that needed extra special attention. All of this is in Scrivener as I had several status levels for the scenes, but having the spreadsheet helped even more.

    Scrivener tip: If you write in scenes and want to put your scene headings into excel, just copy the scene descriptions from the binder and paste them into excel in Column A. Then enter your word counts in column B.

  67. Mary said: And toward the end of the book, in an action scene, I very often jump from one scene to the next. Hero coming. Bad guys coming. Heroine fighting. Or dangling from a cliff.

    Yes, this is me. It doesn't mess up my chart. It IS my chart. And... the charts were for today's illustration. For the record, I've never made CHARTS before, but Tina says we need visuals in Seekerville. Ha! So y'all got pretty little charts. And, they are mega easy in Excel. Crazy easy. I used to do a lot of charting in my old day job and excel makes it a piece of cake.

    Speaking of cake, Pumpkin Squares and coffee for mid-morning break. A friend made some of these for our homecoming on Sunday and they were amazing. I just hope ours today are half as good as hers. Oh my. I can't even. I could have eaten the entire batch and scraped the pan clean!

  68. Wow, that's amazing! I bet it's so eye-opening to see your writing in a graph like that. Brilliant. :)

  69. Renee, we must be twins separated at birth. And that's cool at the graphs in Scrivener. I'll have to look for that. :)

  70. Oh, thanks Walt! Good luck with the blurbs, everyone!

  71. Missy, that natural instinct just kicked in, didn't it? Seems like we all said the same thing about novellas. Scenes tend to be shorter for most of us.

  72. Stephanie, I'm not much of a musician (that gene passed me by!), but oh, the fun you could have comparing writing to drumming! The steady beat vs. the runs as things heat up.

    Godspeed as you finish your rough draft!

  73. Ruthy said: MAYBE THEY DON'T KNOW!!!!! :)

    Oops, and I've let the cat out of the bag. lol

  74. Back to the question of one document for a novel vs. separate documents per chapter.

    As Ruthy said, when writing in Word, one document is SO much easier and makes so much more sense to me. I'd go bonkers trying to find something in multiple Word documents. I just can't even imagine.

    Renee did say separate files if you're writing in Scrivener. What that means is that you have ONE document for your manuscript, but each scene is a separate "Page" or "text" file. I'm not sure how others do it, but once I put my scenes into chapters, the chapters are folders, and all those folders are nested under the overall "Manuscript" document. It looks something like this...

    Ch. 1
    Scene 1
    Scene 2
    Scene 3
    Ch. 2
    Scene 1
    Scene 2
    Scene 3

    And on and on. You can toggle between scenes and chapters or even just click on the top level "Manuscript" folder and see and read the entire manuscript. It's the best of both worlds, imo.

  75. Sally, so glad this resonated with you. Let us know what you discover. :)

  76. Janet, that's just it. I DON'T have a rhythm. :) Look at the charts. My scenes are all over the place in length and just like you I write long and short and everything in between. I might have 1, 2, 3, or sometimes 4 scene breaks in a chapter.

    The rhythm is knowing your averages and working to your natural bent, which as others said, you're doing instinctively. I do it instinctively as well. The only reason we're actually putting this to paper and trying to show it visually is that in the early days of my writing, I assumed all my scenes needed to be 900-1000 words each, no matter what because most people like to use averages when they discuss something like this. I would say contests also contributed to this mindset of averages as well.

  77. Oh, Barb, pumpkin scones. They sound yummy!

    And a manuscript submitted in separate documents. You POOR thing! I'd go bonkers!!

  78. Yes, Mary, I know y'all would be a tad shell-shocked to find that I'm sitting in the library in my nightgown. Although I would probably fit in with the folks walking around in pajamas.

  79. Rachael, I would love to see something along those lines. Wouldn't that be cool? And, like you said, especially cool comparing a large pool of writers across different genres.

    But as you can see, very few authors (from our small sampling today) actually document how many words they have between scene breaks. It would be a daunting task to do such research.

  80. Caryl, and that's at is should be. You have the right (write?) idea!

  81. Megan, 1500 word scenes are nice big chunks of writing. I usually have my h/hn sparing and about 800 words in, I'm itching to let the other one share their "thoughts" with the reader.

    Some of my longer scenes tend to be when one of my POV characters is interacting with others, but another POV character isn't in the scene. I wonder what that says about my POV characters strong wills? :)

  82. Meghan, hope you can glean some tips from this. Love all the comments on the various ways we all get our words on paper.

  83. KC, I'm so glad you chimed in. I wondered how this would pan out with one POV. If you get a chance to stop back by, I'd love to know if you have any idea of the range of words per scene in some of your books, that ebb and flow, if you will.

    As stated earlier, I find I switch often because I want to show things from another POV, and wondered if I'd write longer scenes more consistently if I was writing in one POV.

  84. DebH, you're going to LOVE just writing in scenes. It really is freeing. Even when I wrote in Word, I'd started doing that, and when I switched to Scrivener, I kept up the practice.

    As I build the story and am 100% confident in the first section, I might start breaking things up into chapters but that's probably more a way of procrastinating putting new words on the page than for any other reason. lol

  85. Heidi, they are purdy, ain't they?

  86. Pam, I love that you love spreadsheets. These are some interesting observations and it makes sense that the ebb and flow will give readers a more fluid experience XD LOL! Sorry, I'm a little nutty this morning. I had no idea authors wrote in scenes, fascinating! Thanks for sharing!!!

  87. Wow, I loved seeing those spreadsheets! That is a neat discovery with the word counts between scene breaks. Who knew? No wonder books seem to "flow" naturally like that. It's all patterns and algorithms. LOL

  88. A fluid experience. ROFLOL. Great pun, Beth!!! You're definitely no wet blanket to the party today. ;)

  89. There is nothing that makes my heart happier than a good spreadsheet. :-) It is interesting as a reader to think on. Thanks for your article.
    Becky B.

  90. Susan, but each one is different, so it's like there's a pattern in the fact that there isn't a pattern. Hmmm, that's confusing. Let me try again...

    Yes, what you said.... and what Beth said ... the scenes flow naturally (I'm still giggling over the fluid comment) because we writers work hard to write instinctively, letting the scenes live and breath and ebb and in and out.

    What a stagnant pail of water my work would be if I forced every stinkin' scene to be exactly 952 words, no less, no more.

  91. I LOVE writing in Scrivener for the visual picture it gives me of the story as it develops. Like PAM, I make separate folders for each chapter, then separate text files for each scene. Each scene is named for the POV character, and I even color-code them (pink for heroine, blue for hero, etc.). One look at the binder (where all the folders and files are listed on the left side of the screen) and I can tell every time the POV changed and easily see if I need to give one of the characters more time onstage.

  92. Becky, aren't they beautiful? 99% of what I do, I build it around a spreadsheet. It's a sickness, I tell ya!

  93. Very interest to read as a reader! I'm always fascinated to know what goes into writing a book! It makes me appreciate that book so much more! Thanks!

  94. PAM, yes, each author is different in their patterns - just naturally so! I love it all. My OCD is happy to know in the uncertainty of an author's world that there is a natural order to things, without an author necessarily trying. :) You are like my hubby - spreadsheets are his "sickness". HAHA.

  95. I took the first four chapters of three stories I have. One story didn't make it past chapter 2. The word/page totals are so lopsided I see holes in the story without even reading it lol. I was surprised this could be a way I could use to detect that. I will do this from now on to see where I am. Most of my chapters have the hero/heroine pov. The pages/word totals are more evenly divided for each chapter, except for one of the chapters, and I figured out I needed to go back in and add some content. Thank you so much for this useful tool! Realized in the story I am working on that the heroine is getting a lot of time center stage but the hero not so much. I need to hear more from him!

  96. Pam, now you've gone and done it. I'll have to count off words in scenes because that stuff fascinates me too. Being a teacher, I often count syllables and sentence lengths to get reading levels. That's a neat thing to do too, though tedious. But sometimes these "tests" do help you to see things you wouldn't otherwise.

  97. Pam, I agree with what Trixi said "The more I learn, the higher my admiration is for all the hard work and dedication you gals/guys devote to your craft!" Hope your satellite gets back to normal soon! I would love to be in the drawing.

  98. Valri, when I first dreamed of writing, I had the impression that it was the easiest job in the world. I mean, reading is SO easy and so fun, wouldn't writing be just as easy?

    While I still think writing is the most wonderful job in the world, I've discovered it is work, and there's a saying that goes something like the easier the read, the harder the writing. That's probably true for many books!

  99. I've been working on my AAs and not sure if hard breaks have been mentioned today.

    At the end of each chapter, do a "hard break" so your new chapter always appears at the top of the next page. Otherwise, if you add or delete a bit of text from an earlier scene, the subsequent chapters could start anywhere on a given page.

    Sorry, I know I'm not doing a good job explaining this...

    I must be brain dead from reading tiny text...


  100. Sally, it's great that you're putting new tools in your toolkit to work with. Some scenes and chapters will be heavier on the hero's pov, others on the heroine's, but as you said, if you spot an area that you feel needs work, then you're moving forward, yes?

    Also, I noticed you said some of your scenes are lopsided. If you'll notice my charts, mine scene lengths seesaw back and forth, back and forth, so lopsided can be a good thing, imo. :)

  101. lol, Paula. No manual counting, now!

    There are reading level tests online. You just copy/paste part of your ms into the test generator and hit submit and it tells you the reading level. I haven't done it in a long time, but it was kinda fun.

  102. Thank you Jackie! I am whispering because I came back home and it's working right now. Shhhh!!! A tech is supposed to be on his way, so we'll see.

  103. Debby! That's just what I needed to hear. I was trying to figure out how to make that happen lol. Thank you!

  104. Debby, good advice. Hard breaks or in some cases, you can insert a page break. I have done that though, and before I turn in the ms, discover a blank page or two in there.

    And, truly I don't want this to turn into a Scrivener love fest, but it does a nice job of preparing those new chapter headings on the exact line when you compile.

  105. DEBBY, I think the term in Word is either a page break or a section break. Either one will do the trick. When I used to write exclusively in Word, I always preferred section breaks because you could get a little more precise with formatting, headings, etc.

  106. Yeah. I have no clue what a hard break is. Must look it up.


  107. Word 2010 for Dummies (me)

    Word 2010 For Dummies
    By Dan Gookin
    You can use both hard and soft returns in Word 2010. Both kinds of returns move the insertion pointer to the line below the one you’ve been typing on. But Word’s different types of returns let you decide whether a new line starts a new paragraph.

    Hard return: Pressing the Enter key in Word ends a paragraph. It’s officially known as typing a hard return. Yes, it’s a return even though the key is known as Enter on a PC. The problem with the hard return is that it adds a bit of “air” after a paragraph. That’s a good thing; you should have air around paragraphs in a document.

    Soft return: Those times when you don’t want air, when you need to put lines of text close together, you use a soft return. The soft return, or line break, is used primarily in titles and headings; when you have a long title and need to split it up between two lines, you press Shift+Enter to insert the soft return.

  108. Hi Pam:

    I really like the title of your WIP: "The Promise of Breeze Hill". It has been said that the key to advertising is 'promise, promise, promise'. 'Promise' has power.

    I hope you get to kept that title. When will the book come out? BTW, "Breeze Hill" is such a refreshing name, did you make it up or do you know of an actual "Breeze Hill"?

    Your writing 'ebb and flow' idea makes me wonder if our life events would chart the same way as our writing does. Does our writing mirror the way we live?

    In any event, writing is not just measured in the number of words. I've noticed that the best selling authors seem to accomplish many more story goals per scene (even per paragraph) than the average author.

    For example, while one scene may be written to accomplish one story goal (and often is), even a single paragraph has the potential to accomplish many story goals at the same time.

    For example: A paragraph can set an emotional mood; it can reveal a little of the backstory or develop a character's personality by revealing insights into the character's true feelings; it may show how the setting or environment mirrors the story's or character's development; it can surely foreshadow events, drop clues or provide red herrings; it may set up anticipatory events and resolve past anticipatory events. The same paragraph might build a foundation for a later development, show a character's unique speech patterns, delight the reader with sparkles in the word choice and even demonstrate a character's quirkiness'; these are only a few of the many goals a given passage can accomplish.

    While how many words are used is important, how many writing objectives those words achieve is also important (if not paramount). One might ask: is a writer's pot of soup thick with delicious ingredients or is it good but thin? I'd love to see that chart!

    I hope all these words are at least food for thought.

    Bon appetit!


  109. Wow, Pam, this is fascinating!! I don't know how to make charts, but I do love them! Great that Scrivener will make them automatically!

    I downloaded a trial of Scrivener once...a fellow writer raved about it and convinced me it was helpful. I was just so busy at the time, I didn't even try it! :(

    Since so many of you mentioned it I went to the website....and there is a GREAT offer if you are participating in NaNoWriMo...here's the link...https://www.literatureandlatte.com/nanowrimo.php

    I have struggled with Word sometimes...with page breaks and unwanted spacing...and then spent so much time trying to figure out how something happened I didn't want to happen...LOL

    I think I'll give Scrivener another try!!

    Have a lovely day...blustery here in Northern California!!

  110. Kathryn, expect a bit of a learning curve, but getting started with the basics in Scrivener isn't too intimidating. And once you learn it, you'll never want to go back! There are so many things the program can do, and it's fun learning new tricks!

  111. Pam - you wrote: KC, I'm so glad you chimed in. I wondered how this would pan out with one POV. If you get a chance to stop back by, I'd love to know if you have any idea of the range of words per scene in some of your books, that ebb and flow, if you will.

    As stated earlier, I find I switch often because I want to show things from another POV, and wondered if I'd write longer scenes more consistently if I was writing in one POV.

    ** ** **

    That's me - chiming! Much better than butting in... ;) Or being a pest. That's May's job and I love her for it.

    Well - let me go take a peek - somewhere I DO have some charts on word counts. Did I save them? Uhmmm... Stand by.

    I typically have 31-32 chapters, though book 4 was longer than the others by about 8K words with 34 chapters. (Remember I write MG, technically 8-12 yrs old, so completely different audience ~ though we have MANY adults fans. Go May!)

    Yep - okay for book 4 here you go. (If these aren't final word counts, they're probably close. This was the chart dated 5/10 and I worked on the mss another month+):


    That's the w/c per chapter. More often than not, I have one scene per chapter in later books. On occasion, there are two. If I counted correctly in book 4 there were two scenes in 10 chapters so roughly 1/3 of the time or less. Remember though, May tells her own story in present tense, so it's very immediate. I don't know if that makes a difference or not?!

    Thanks for asking. I do keep an eye on things as far as w/c but not overly OCD about it. I work hard varying lengths though and remember too, all my books are illustrated so there's that to consider when making a new chapter. Each chapter header is illustrated and sometimes within the chapter too.

    Whole different thing in some ways!

  112. Finally got to this.

    Ruthy, you made the comment "wax poetic" above. I think that's eloquent. The first thing that came to mind when I did read this was poetic meter. It's looks as if we're looking at a rhythm, whether iambic, anapestic, trochaic, or dactylic.

    And, if not, then maybe we need to create a new meter. :-)

  113. PAM, my sense that your spreadsheet showed a natural rhythm just shows I'm either stupid or just the idea of a spreadsheet shuts down my mind. The weird thing is that I'm a record keeper, but only in Word or in journals.

    I remember noticing that some writers tend to have the same number of pages in their chapters. Never noticed the length of their scenes. This is before I sold. Now I just read. :-)

    Slinking off.

  114. Oh Mr Vince,

    Your perspective... Wawzah. Just wawzah.

    SO true!!!!

  115. Pam, this was a great post and very helpful. I am currently working on my book and struggling with the scene lengths, wondering what they should be. I will see what my word count is between scenes and that should help to see where I am with them.

    Please enter me in the drawing!

  116. Really needed this today Pam. It encouraged me to keep trying to work on my own book.
    I need to be more diligent in doing so daily !
    Linda Marie Finn
    Enter me please !!!

  117. Well done, o vindicated one :)

    May God bless you and all of Seekerville!

  118. Vince, all this talk of our writing mirroring our life, etc. reminds me of those overlays back in the high school anatomy books. You know the ones where you started with just a skeleton, then added internal organs, the sinew & muscle overlays, then skin, etc?

    I want to layer these charts and see what fits. :)

    As far as the title The Promise of Breeze Hill is the final title and they're already working on the cover, and I saw a sneak peek, but can't share yet. :(

    The series is set in 1790s Natchez District, and I made up the plantation Breeze Hill. It's a composite of several plantation homes from that era, a little older style than the more opulent plantation homes in the mid-1800s. :)

  119. KC, thank you for those numbers! :) And I agree, I can see how the illustrated MG novels would be totally different.

  120. Walt, I bow to your poetic meter expertise! Maybe we can call this novelytic meter. :)

  121. Myra and I have distinctly different POV's on learning new tricks, LOL!

    But I think if you like experimenting, sure, try stuff...

    I'm just happy I mastered Word.

    Have I mentioned that I love Word????

  122. Janet, I just read, too. Isn't that the fun part? :)

  123. Pam, thank you for going to the library to do this... YOU ROCK!!!!!

  124. Sandy, as you can see from the posts and comments, your scene lengths can vary greatly, to your story and your style.

  125. Linda, I'm right there with you. I need to WORK! :)

  126. Satellite tech just left. We're in business again. He said that it's so dry that the pole had shifted slightly and gotten it out of line. We've been having issues for a while, but didn't know that was the problem. And then, more recently, the wind, rocking the satellite back and forth made it much worse. Happy now. :)

  127. Megan Besing, I agree... I've got a middle school fantasy I'm working on when time allows, and I keep those scenes and chapters shorter, too.... It fits the genre and the target age.

    AND IT'S SO MUCH FUN!!!! :)

  128. Pam, I had never thought about this until recently when I was reading a Fannie Flagg book. Some of the scenes were ultra-short, didn't even fill a page, while others went on for pages and pages.

    As I've revised my third WIP, I've noticed I tend to write long, short, long, short. I haven't paid attention to the word counts for each, though. Oftentimes the short ones provide a sort of comic relief, a lightness before the story dives back in.

    Isn't writing a facinating endeavor?

    Nancy C

  129. Myra Johnson said...
    I've been told I'm an instinctive writer (which sounds a little more erudite than "pantser"--LOL).

    Oh, Myra! I like that! An instinctive writer. I have a new label for myself :-)

    Nancy C

  130. Nancy, there ya go! More of those instincts coming out. :)

  131. Pam, this was such a fascinating post! As soon as I get this revised manuscript sent back to the editor, I'm going to sit down and chart my scene lengths. But even without a chart, I'm fairly sure that my chapters average somewhere around 2,800 to 3,400 words, with two to three scenes per chapter.

  132. Pam, Thanks for the information. Thanks to Tina, I now do a timeline with the number of pages per POV, but I don't include a word count (and that would actually be difficult for me since I have Microsoft Word 2016 for Mac. I really liked the old Microsoft Word where you could see more information about words. For example, I see how many words on the bottom, but not what word of what word like I did with the previous edition). Might have to include that on the timeline I'll be starting in a couple of weeks. Thanks for the insight.

  133. Sorry I'm late in joining the party. Our internent was out ALL DAY! And so when we finally got it back just before dinner I had to do my college first.

    Pam, This is a very interesting post. I've never paid much attention to the word count in my books. I more pay attention to the page count per chapter which varied between 5-6 pages in my first book with the really short chapters being 4 and the extra long ones being 7. However, with my second book my page count per chapter jumped, averaging between 6-7 and even 8 pages with the short ones being once again 4 (though one chapter was only 1 page) and the long ones being over 10. However if I did look at the word count they would range in the 3,000-4,000 word mark (not counting the 10 page monsters)

    I've noticed that the longer I have been writing the longer my scenes grow, the more I am able to incorporate into my stories. Because I've only completed two manuscripts, I'm not saying anything solid here. I'll just have to see where my writing takes me.

    BTW all those page count numbers are on the processor on the computer which is a little larger than pages on books.

  134. Thank you, PAM! I'm not a charts or graphs kinda person and wasn't sure I'd even understand this - but I did, and truly found it fascinating! I'm checking my WIP tonight to see if there's a pattern. Thanks again!

  135. Rhonda, thanks for sharing that. It helps to know where our writing is going. Sounds like your chapter lengths are on par with several of us.

  136. Hi RUTHY - Thank you for answering my question. I like the idea of figuring out the chapters afterward and I can see how this would increase word count.

    I've been using Google Docs and there's a table of contents on the left so until I come up with a system I prefer, I'm adding in chapter numbers so I don't have to scroll through everything.

    SO many ways to write...so many methods! I'm curious as to how much it'll change after I've been writing for twenty years!

  137. Tanya, some kind of timeline or charting just keeps me on track, especially when I'm racing toward the finish line. Glad it's working for you. :)

  138. This was fascinating and the charts had some impressive waves. :)

  139. Interesting numbers, Nicky. Sounds like you're starting to map out your own style and pacing. The more we write, and the more stories we finish, the closer we get to our natural rhythms.

  140. Sherrinda, looks like a storm's coming! lol

  141. My goodness, Vince, now you have me thinking. LOL

  142. I really do need to learn Scrivener. I've heard so much said about the learning curve that it kind of scares me. I have had a sample experimental usage on my computer for a year and haven't ventured into it. LOL

  143. PAMMY!!! My apologies for being a day late ( and WAY more than a dollar short!!), but Mondays are a blur to me, and yesterday was not pretty!!

    Fascinating post, my friend, and let me just say I am in AWE of your analytical mind because mine freezes at the threshold of anything technical, but this actually made sense AND made me feel better about my door-stopper books!!

    I will say that I have finally come around the mountain to the side of short scenes in short chapters because frankly they are so much easier to read and keep track of in a reader's mine. Or, at least they are in mine! So now I work very very carefully to contain my chapters to 2000 words, which is saying something since I've been known to go up to over 5000 words. Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks? :-)


  144. Very interesting post. I love Amazon, so would love to win this Giftcard! God bless.

  145. I found this fascinating. I'm on my third novel and wonder what the flow is. I think I tend to write long. Probably,because some editors don't like short scenes or one-page chapters. But I find sometimes a short scene is what is needed. As a panster I tend to sense flow rather than chart it but this is very interesting. Food for thought. Great post Pam.

  146. Josee, I find the breaks by doing a "find" for the "*" and then I can go from one to the next and decide if it's worthy of a chapter break... or scene break. And then I label them Chapter One, Two, three as I decide.

    And then I give them another once over, just to be sure I like the placements....

    I don't know why such a little thing helps me, but it does!!!

  147. Pam, this was such a different topic and I really enjoyed it. I'm going to be number-crunching now, to find my averages. I don't know when I would have thought to do something like this without your lesson. Many thanks, and blessings to you. What fun!

  148. Sandra, I was the same way. I guess I've tried so many things that didn't work (diets, treadmills, new recipes) that I hate trying something new. But Scrivener was one thing that I did like when I finally spent enough time to learn it.

  149. And Julie's comment shows that even though we have our "groove" so to speak, we can change. If we write way too many short scenes, we can learn how to weave in multiple plot points into one scene, or delete a really short-short scene and incorporate what we wanted to share in another place.

    Julie writes long and shared ways she's shortening her scenes.

    But who can decide what's too short or too long? Only you and your editors, and ultimately the readers. If your story is wilding engaging, then it might not even matter overmuch.

  150. Abigail, so glad you stopped by. We all love Amazon. :)

  151. Jubilee, it is an interesting thing to ponder, isn't it? But even if we have to change to suit the market sometimes, at least we know that this ebb and flow in scene length seems to be natural for most of us.

  152. Thanks for stopping by, Rebecca. Hope you glean some eye-opening stuff from your research.

    Have a great day everyone ... and see y'all on the Wednesday blog. Sandra's sharing Nine Ways to Promote Yourself. I can always use new tips for that. :)

  153. Wonderful post and so helpful! Thanks, Pam.

  154. Always learn something here when I visit!
    Amazon is my fav place to shop :)

  155. Great info! As a reader, it gives me better appreciation for the writers!

    Thanks for the giveaway!

  156. I must admit that I haven't paid much attention to the word count of my scenes. Another thing to add to my list when editing. :D

  157. I've never been one for word counts. I just write. For me, anything else is procrastinating, but lucky you who can enjoy it.

  158. This is fascinating, Pam. When I first started writing, my scenes were about 300-500 words each. As I got better at it, my scenes expanded quite a bit. Now they probably average around 1000 words or more. That's what I'm usually shooting for as my minimum, though I will end a scene at 750-800 if it makes sense to do so, or go over 2K if there's a lot going on and a break doesn't make sense. My core range is probably 800-1300, and it's good because it forces me to evaluate if a scene has a strong enough reason for being there. Now you have me wanting to chart them to see my ebb and flow and average. ;-)

    I put each scene into its own document in Scrivener, so it would be a cinch to view the Draft/Manuscript folder in Outline view with the Word Count column turned on. If you work that way, you can then export the outline view to a CSV file (File>Export>Outliner Contents as CSV) and open it in a spreadsheet program.

    BTW, thanks for the mention. Glad you're finally feeling comfortable in Scrivener, and good luck with your latest!

  159. Thanks for a fascinating post. I enjoyed reading all of the comments also!

  160. Sherri, thanks for stopping by. Glad you enjoyed the post! :)

    Deanna, you're welcome. I enjoy shopping at Amazon as well. Probably TOO much! lol

    Thanks Kate! Happy to see you here.

  161. Amber, don't let it paralyze you. Boo is right... just write and enjoy the journey. This technique of checking words is for those of us who are a bit OCD. If it works and is helpful for you, wonderful. If you can't fathom how it could be beneficial, there ya go. :)

    Thanks, Connie. Lots of great comments.

  162. Gwen, thank you for stopping by, AND for this little gem: "I put each scene into its own document in Scrivener, so it would be a cinch to view the Draft/Manuscript folder in Outline view with the Word Count column turned on. If you work that way, you can then export the outline view to a CSV file (File>Export>Outliner Contents as CSV) and open it in a spreadsheet program."

    YES! I just followed your instructions and exported the word counts from Scrivener without having to manually type them.


    I've truly just scratched the surface of Scrivener's tips and tricks.

  163. I haven't checked my word counts for each scene. Interesting post!