July 02, 2020, 06:09:11 PM

Author Topic: Scene & Chapter Length  (Read 12153 times)

Offline jefGoelz

Re: Scene & Chapter Length
« Reply #30 on: April 11, 2015, 07:14:01 AM »
It wasn't that long ago that the conventional wisdom was to write in third person omniscient in which the narrator could jump from head to head. Today, most fantasy authors have labeled that a major no-no.
I think that's grossly overstated. Even GRRM is writing a nearly limited flavor of third person omniscient.

Like most writing advice, it's based on the worst-case scenario: bad omniscient is more obvious than bad third limited, but they're equally bad.

If we never did anything that was a little bit hard, we wouldn't be very good writers, imo.

Offline Justan Henner

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Re: Scene & Chapter Length
« Reply #31 on: April 11, 2015, 04:07:53 PM »
It wasn't that long ago that the conventional wisdom was to write in third person omniscient in which the narrator could jump from head to head. Today, most fantasy authors have labeled that a major no-no.
I think that's grossly overstated. Even GRRM is writing a nearly limited flavor of third person omniscient.

Like most writing advice, it's based on the worst-case scenario: bad omniscient is more obvious than bad third limited, but they're equally bad.

If we never did anything that was a little bit hard, we wouldn't be very good writers, imo.

Pfff. And I was just beginning to think I was so right no one could even think of challenging me. Obviously I cannot be wrong, and obviously nothing is ever subjective, so I guess I'll have to do a 180 and convince myself I was so right, you must now denounce me as a heretic. ;D

But I wouldn't say its an overstatement at all. Personally I see anything with clear scene and character breaks as strictly different from third person omniscient. My definition might be wrong, but you'll have a difficult time convincing me otherwise...
« Last Edit: April 11, 2015, 04:16:13 PM by Justan Henner »

Offline Ryan Mueller

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Re: Scene & Chapter Length
« Reply #32 on: April 13, 2015, 07:58:16 PM »
It wasn't that long ago that the conventional wisdom was to write in third person omniscient in which the narrator could jump from head to head. Today, most fantasy authors have labeled that a major no-no.
I think that's grossly overstated. Even GRRM is writing a nearly limited flavor of third person omniscient.

Like most writing advice, it's based on the worst-case scenario: bad omniscient is more obvious than bad third limited, but they're equally bad.

If we never did anything that was a little bit hard, we wouldn't be very good writers, imo.

I'm pretty sure GRRM writes in limited with multiple POV characters. Is there some point in the stories where an omniscient narrator shows up? I haven't seen it.

Offline Yora

Re: Scene & Chapter Length
« Reply #33 on: April 13, 2015, 08:18:36 PM »
What's the difference? That the author adds comments that none of the characters are thinking?
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Offline Ryan Mueller

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Re: Scene & Chapter Length
« Reply #34 on: April 13, 2015, 08:35:57 PM »
What's the difference? That the author adds comments that none of the characters are thinking?

In omniscient, you have one point of view, the omniscient narrator. The author can use this to add comments than none of the characters are thinking. Well-done, this can add additional layers to the story. However, if you do it poorly, you can end up with things like "Little did he know..."

Offline jefGoelz

Re: Scene & Chapter Length
« Reply #35 on: April 14, 2015, 06:43:40 AM »

I'm pretty sure GRRM writes in limited with multiple POV characters. Is there some point in the stories where an omniscient narrator shows up? I haven't seen it.

well you could look at page one of GoT. that's clearly omni.  He also sprinkles omniscient things in throughout.

granted it's not a very omniscient omniscient, which points out that these things are gradients, not distinct classes.
« Last Edit: April 14, 2015, 06:45:45 AM by jefGoelz »

Offline jefGoelz

Re: Scene & Chapter Length
« Reply #36 on: April 14, 2015, 06:46:57 AM »

Pfff. And I was just beginning to think I was so right no one could even think of challenging me. Obviously I cannot be wrong, and obviously nothing is ever subjective, so I guess I'll have to do a 180 and convince myself I was so right, you must now denounce me as a heretic. ;D

But I wouldn't say its an overstatement at all. Personally I see anything with clear scene and character breaks as strictly different from third person omniscient. My definition might be wrong, but you'll have a difficult time convincing me otherwise...

Thanks for saving me the time I might have spent trying to convince you.  Really, thanks. ;)

Offline sennydreadful

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Re: Scene & Chapter Length
« Reply #37 on: April 14, 2015, 10:11:59 AM »
I would support the advice others have given about not worrying too much on word counts until the story is finished. And I know that's easier said than done, because I have to turn off the word counter at the bottom of the page so that it's not distracting me. When you start to worry that something is too short or too long it really takes you out of the writing.

A scene is as long as it has to be to relate what you want from it. If it comes out under 1k words, doubling it with unnecessary descriptive text or exposition will likely only lose the reader. Likewise, if you have that big moment where two or more characters/plot elements are coming to a head, cutting it to shreds to meet an imaginary length criteria is just shortchanging your audience.
I find that when I'm writing the scenes to my plot structure, I'll often come to stages where it feels like there's that little something missing joining them together. It's sort of akin to building a wall--you lay out the bricks and when you're done you stand back and see those gaps that got away. So what do you do? You mix up a little extra cement and fill them. Quite often these scenes can be as small as 3-500 words. Other times they come out as an entire 2-3000 word short story in their own right. But so long as what's in there is relevant and moving the story onwards it's all good.

I only bother with chapters at the very end. To quote the advice of a published author when I asked the same question: "At the end of the day chapters are just dressing. The story told within them is the same whether they're there or not." And that's the truth. Have you ever read a review where somebody praised how beautifully laid out the author's chapters were?
I can spend hours alone just jiggling scenes around into logical chapter groups. The climax moments for a potential chapter end aren't normally hard to spot, but I still try and limit myself to 1-3 scenes max with an average of 2000-4000 words, if only because that's how I personally like to read. I'm the sort who'll check how long a chapter is before starting it as I don't like jamming a bookmark into the middle of a scene to pick up again later. Stories that go 50-60 pages of unbroken text will nine out of ten times make me groan and lose me along the way. But I know others that find bitty chapters equally as irritating, so yea, the moral is that you'll never please everyone.

On a final note, I'm more severe on myself when a scene runs long rather than short. That's when I start to question how much I've written is really necessary. My first effort where I went in blind--because how hard is it to write a book?--came out at 180k words. Since then I've finished another two that were 83k and 99k, and am two-thirds of the way through a third that's currently sitting on ~60k. In all those later cases I feel the works have equal if not more content than the original 180k beast--despite being half the wordcount--simply because they're focused on the important events and not a bunch of irrelevant journey chapters that were only there to get from point A to B. Oddly enough, a lot of my chapters in that first attempt came out at 5-7k words where I'd be pulling quite a large sadface in real life at any landing on 4k and under. These days the moment I break 3k I'm starting to wonder if there's anything I can do to shorten it. In both cases I shouldn't be looking at the word count at all :p.
It's funny how so many of those mistakes are ones that a lot of beginning writers seem to make, particularly because there's so much writing advice out there telling you not to do them. Hopefully there's little chance of that happening to us!  :P

Because, I suspect, the only way to really learn is to write - writing rules and advice are useful foundations, but in the end it's a personal process and you have to find the way on your own. I couldn't have written my last three books without the three hot messes that came before them, because I was learning to understand my own process. That's okay. A hot mess* just means you're on your journey.

*wow, say this enough and it really sounds like you're taking about having soiled yourself.
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Offline Raptori

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Re: Scene & Chapter Length
« Reply #38 on: April 14, 2015, 10:29:44 AM »
It's funny how so many of those mistakes are ones that a lot of beginning writers seem to make, particularly because there's so much writing advice out there telling you not to do them. Hopefully there's little chance of that happening to us!  :P

Because, I suspect, the only way to really learn is to write - writing rules and advice are useful foundations, but in the end it's a personal process and you have to find the way on your own. I couldn't have written my last three books without the three hot messes that came before them, because I was learning to understand my own process. That's okay. A hot mess* just means you're on your journey.

*wow, say this enough and it really sounds like you're taking about having soiled yourself.

Yeah that's certainly possible, plus a lot of people find it difficult to keep the monumental number of things you need to think of in mind all the time to begin with, and build that up over time.  :)
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