Exploring Scene Sequence Writing for NaNoWriMo

The goal for NaNoWriMo is 50,000 words in 30 days – which works out to ~1,667 words per day.

For those familiar with the trials and tribulations of achieving NaNo’s goal, it’s common that there are some days when more than 1,667 words will be written and some days where there will be less.

Which is one of the reasons why scenes make a practical target for any given day of writing.

In both novels and novellas, scenes average between 1,000 words and 1,200 words. (They can sometimes be as short as 700 words or as long as 1,500.) To reference back to the NaNo goal of writing 1,667 words per day, this works out to roughly writing one to two scenes per day.

Since the goal is 50,000 words a NaNo project will be between 40-50 scenes of varying length.

Here’s a quick breakdown:

15 days of 1 scene @ 1,000 – 1,200 words = 15,000 – 18,000 words
15 days of 2 scenes @ 2,000 – 2,400 words = 30,000 – 36,000 words
30 days of scene writing = 45,000 – 54,000 words

A great thing about scenes is that they are all about achieving story progression in bite-size chunks. Emotional impact and conflict are both a prime focus because they give readers a reason to want to keep reading. Emotional impact keeps a reader intrigued. Conflict keeps them curious.

Achieving a sense of forward progress shouldn’t come at the expense of the plot. It’s important to keep the big picture in mind while fleshing out the details. Scene Sequence, more commonly referenced as the scene / sequel writing technique, is very useful for just that. The idea behind it is scenes can and should directly contribute to each other in a building flow that underlines the narrative of a story.

During NaNo, it can be helpful to keep a note of what part of the sequence was last completed so when it’s time to take a break writing there’s an easy pick-up point for next time.

Scene Sequence looks a little something like this:

Scene Sequence Infographic - WritingOnPoint

Some Tips for using Scene Sequence

  • Even if you change POV characters, stay within the Scene -> Sequel pattern (Meaning that if character A completes a Scene, character B should pick up with a Sequel)
  • Goals can change during Scenes, especially as a result of cause-effect (For example, looking for a secret passage could transition into looking for a door. They are equal exchanges for the Goal or details of a larger Goal like escaping a haunted castle.)
  • The Conflict and Dilemma of Scenes and Sequels should be explored in terms of the POV character’s individual quirks
  • Never change POV in the middle of Scene or Sequel, only between them

I’ve been plotting my NaNo project with Scene Sequences if anyone wants an example of how this might look.
Note: Paolo is a thief and “work” is actually his criminal contacts. There is one “business group” in particular that he asked for help in the recent past who is contacting him for a new job that is a little outside his normal expertise.


If anyone is planning on doing NaNo, feel free to add me as a buddy on the website (my username is Jesiryu). Also if anyone is familiar with or curious about Discord, my dear Peter Dawes is running a server.

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