An Aspiring Writer's Blog Site

How Long Should a Story Scene Be?

July 16, 2012

A few weeks ago, I was lamenting about how I may have over scoped my story and possibly did not have the ability to write what I had imagined for the Gideon Plan. I sited a particular portion of the story I had been working on and how I just couldn’t manage to pull the scene off convincingly.

On Thursday, I went back to this scene, just curious as to how terrible it was. I was actually stunned to find out it was actually pretty good and not too far from being finished. So, I finished it. The scene is 15 and a half pages long (or 9,858 words). Wow. That’s a lot of scene.

So I began to wonder to myself, how long should a story scene be? In Bronze Raiders, my scenes were pretty short—about 4 or 5 pages (around 2500-3000 words). I personally like this length. For me, its easier for the reader to digest and the book seems to move more rapidly. It was my goal to have the Gideon Plan scenes about the same length.

The thing is, I wasn’t sure how the heck to shorten this sucker. I had a couple of ideas: I could shorten it (maybe—MAYBE– I can condense it to 10 pages) or I could cut it up into smaller scenes and alternate them with others scenes. Or, I could just leave it as is, and this part of the story could be the exception to scene length. My feeling is that the Gideon Plan just calls for longer scenes. About half of the scenes I have written so far are over 8 pages long. Its just the type of story it is.

So, what is my writer friends’ opinions? How long should a story scene be? Do you have a preference in your own writing or perhaps a tendency to a certain length?


4 responses

  1. Hey, cool story idea for Gideon Plan. I’m recently thinking out a steampunkesque story idea and I have to admit yours sounds pretty f*****g cool. I also noticed that it sounds like you don’t double space your work…is that true? Either way, yes your scenes seem very long and, I would be worried, were it my story, about readers having to slog through that much without much of a break. My opinion only…and by no means am I someone from which an opinion counts, Except, when I read, that would be too much to digest in one steady stream unless the scene was spectacular, magnificent, and outstanding all in one giant mouthful.

    July 16, 2012 at 9:56 pm

    • Thanks Codex! I don’t double space my work when I am working on my first and second drafts. Its just my preference. If I see a space, I think there is something missing. Thanks for the opinion on the length. I don’t like long scenes either and agree that if they are long they better be absolutely f’n amazing.

      July 17, 2012 at 12:46 am

  2. I’m sure about scenes, exactly. I tend to look at chapter size more than anything, and think from a reader’s point of view. In my first published work, I originally had something like 20 chapters. But each chapter ran a ton of words, sometimes higher than 5k a piece. I decided to take a little advice from JA Konrath. He says if the chapter runs 3700 words or more, cut it. So I did, and wound up with 31 chapters instead of 20. In my current work I’m cutting them even more, so I’ll probably wind up with 40 chapters instead. On the subject of spacing: I don’t double space, unless I’m printing my doc to give to one of my editors to proof. Double spacing allows them to mark it up easier, and write in changes as needed. Other than that, it doesn’t really serve a purpose, in my opinion of course. Nice post dan, The steampunk nature of your work has got me interested. 🙂

    July 27, 2012 at 10:34 am

    • Thanks, Drew. I appreciate your thoughts. They are very much welcomed. I’m pretty sure I’m going to cut that scene down into bits and also condense it. 3700 words seems like a pretty good mark and about where I feel comfortable with the size of my scenes (and when I say scenes, at this point, its a break in the narrative and a switch of POV. They may end up being chapters–not sure yet). Thank you for stopping by!

      July 27, 2012 at 1:54 pm

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