Create better scenes with a scene planning worksheet
Thinking about winging it for NaNoWriMo? You could end up staring at a blank screen with nothing to show for it. Don’t sit down to a blank page; have a plan. Scene planning worksheets will give you a simple framework to brainstorm your ideas so you will know what to do with those precious minutes when you actually have time to write.
Every writer has a different process, but sitting down in front of a blinking cursor with no idea what you’re going to write is a fast-track to frustration. Unless you have practiced free-writing and are comfortable typing whatever comes into your head, trying to write without a plan will lead you to long hours and little productivity. For many people, there is nothing more paralyzing than a tiny blinking line.
What is a scene planning worksheet?
Scene planning worksheets are outlines where writers can identify the key elements they want in their scenes. This will help ensure that scene have a purpose and are accomplishing story goals. Some of these elements include:
- Characters in the scene
- POV character’s conflict/actions
- Antagonist’s actions/reactions
- Character arc significance
Writing without specific goals can lead to scenes that do not serve the story and will eventually need to be edited out.
How to use the worksheet
The First Page
The first element is deciding if you are writing a scene or a sequel
This is based on the book by Dwight Swain (affiliate link, but I highly recommend this book)
- Scene- Conflict oriented: shows the character’s goal, the conflict/antagonistic force preventing him from achieving that goal, and ends with a disaster/failure
- Sequel-Transition oriented: shows character’s reaction to the disaster, the character processing the implications of his dilemma, and finally making a decision on how to proceed
After you have made the first decision, fill in the motivation, conflict, and stakes.
The next section is for the character’s actions. This will give you a place to summarize your sequence. The worksheet has four steps, but you may need more or less. There is no wrong answer.
The last box is the results of the scene. Did the POV character reach her goal? Decide what changes as a result of the scene.
The second page
If the conflict is resolved, follow the left column to increase the tension.
If the conflict is unresolved, follow the right column to raise the stakes.
This step is critical to keep the forward momentum going in your story. If the stakes remain unchanged, then essentially nothing has happened in your scene. A static story is a boring story. Consider the ticking clock analogy. Even if the stakes are “or he will die,” you must show that eventual consequence drawing near. Everytime you main character succeeds or fails, her problems need to only get worse. Keep this pattern up until the final battle.
Dark moment: this the hook that will get the reader to move on to the next chapter. This could be a sudden revelation or a last-minute bombshell. This will also set up the next scene or sequel in the sequence.
Tip: Make sure the previous scene/sequel leads logically into the next. A character who just found out her little sister was kidnapped isn’t going to go shoe shopping. The “disaster” is a scene sets up the “reaction” in the sequel and the “decision” in the sequel sets up the “goal” in the next scene. If you break this chain, your plot will feel disjointed.
Scene planning is another tool for writing
There are dozens of scene planning worksheets available online. If mine doesn’t work for you find one that does or create your own. The desire to write may be innate, but the ability must be learned. Finding your process will take time.
Try scene planning to make your writing process easier. You will write faster with better results, which means less editing later. Something every writer can appreciate.