Preptober Series Part 4: Chapter Summaries and Scene Cards

Here we are for the last post on the preptober series! If you’ve missed out on the rest of the series, be sure to go back and read them. But if you’ve been following along, then I’m sure you’re eager to hear my final steps to outlining a novel before I start writing.

Let me reinstate real quick that I do not believe these methods are hard and true facts that everyone should follow. This series has simply been me explaining how I currently go about outlining a novel. Even my own methods are liable to change, and do a lot. You have to find your own method that works for you. Hopefully this series has been helpful in your discovering process.

Chapter Summaries

The last thing that I do before I begin the writing process is chapter summaries. I take the outline I’ve created and break it down chapter by chapter. I tried this method for the first time with this past novel that I outlined and found that I really enjoyed it. Not only was it a lot of fun to do, but it has been so helpful in the writing process.

This is a step I’ve thought of doing for a while now but have never gotten the courage up to follow through. It sounded time consuming and tedious as well as meaningless in the grand scheme of things. But for this last novel I outlined, I took the plunge. And, as I’ve already said, I really enjoyed it and have been amazed at just how helpful it has been.

A couple of worries that I had with doing this was that it would be too hard to come up with what should happen in each individual chapter and then stick with that. But when I dived in, it really wasn’t that difficult to come up with each chapter summary, it was just like coming up with scene ideas and then putting them in order of chapters. And as for the sticking with it part, well… I didn’t really. XD Things changed when I started writing it but I had to realize, that’s okay. You don’t have to stick with an outline to a T. It’s merely a guide map there for you to help you along the way. (And for the parts that I did stick to the outline, it was so helpful to have the chapter summaries!)

Also know that you do not have to go in depth here. The majority of my chapter summaries were no more than a single paragraph or two. But it was so great for me to be able to see the order of events so I could better visualize it in my head. This was also a great place for me to put all the random dialogue snippets I had come up with where I wanted them to go. As I write, I follow my chapter summaries and, even though a lot has changed throughout it, it has been a lifesaver to have them. It is definitely something I want to do again next time I outline a novel.

Scene Cards

This is something I have heard a lot about but have never tried for myself. I am intrigued by the process and love how they cut to the chase of whether or not each scene is necessary for your story. This is a process I can appreciate. However, this last time I outlined I did not feel like going into the depth this required and decided to skip it. Instead I plan to implement this in the editing process to be sure each scene that I’ve written has a purpose to the story.

But I kind of jumped into that, didn’t I? You’re probably wondering, what is a scene card? Well, a scene card is like a mini outline for each scene in your novel. They help you evaluate your scenes before writing them.

But not only that, scene cards help you create a more character driven story that readers will adore. Everybody does this process a little differently, however it fits them best. You can find your own way as well.

From a simple Google search, I have found several different templates. Below is one such template that I found off of this blog post. As this template shows, the point of a scene card is to, at a glance, see the external and internal goals basically. Instead of writing filler scenes that have no meaning or purpose whatsoever just because you need more words in your story, this process forces you to come up with scenes that have a specific goal. You discover the emotional journey within a scene and why it matters to the overall scheme of things.

Abbie Emmons also has a template that you can buy. I have not bought this but it looks amazing as is all her content. You can find this template here.

As I admitted, I have not done scene cards previously, but I am looking forward to one day trying them out (maybe even with the next novel that I outline!). A way that really appeals to me is by using Trello, a free organization app, to create these scene cards. Here is an article that explains exactly how to do this!

You see, every scene should have a cause and effect. If it doesn’t, then you have to ask yourself, why is this scene in my story? Have you ever read a book that was really amazing and you really enjoyed, but then it had this all together random scene that made you ask, what was the point of that? Even after you finished the book, you thought back to that scene and wondered why the author threw it in. You could very well be doing the same thing to your book. Throwing in random scenes that have no importance to the big picture but sound nice when you’re writing. Use scene cards to avoid this random mumbo jumbo. If you don’t enjoy reading it, then chances are others won’t either.

Conclusion

Chapter summaries and scene cards are not for everyone. Maybe they’re not for you. But I hope that this article has been eye opening to you and helpful for you to better understand these elements. For the longest time I was against either one of these outlining tips. But that wasn’t because I knew they didn’t work for me, it was because I was scared to try.

I believe that you can’t bash something until you’ve tried it. If it doesn’t work for you, that’s fine. I won’t hold it against you. But I would love to challenge you to at least give these tips a go and consider using either chapter summaries or scene cards (or even both!) next time you outline a novel. Perhaps you could even try it for this preptober.

However you outline, or even if you don’t, I wish you the best this preptober and NaNoWriMo to come! Writing is a beautiful thing and I love the thought of so many writers coming together in the same crazy attempt to write a novel in one month. Best of luck to you!

Your turn!

Do you write out chapter summaries for your outline? Have you ever tried scene cards? Are you ready to start writing next month?

Blessings, Allyson

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2 thoughts on “Preptober Series Part 4: Chapter Summaries and Scene Cards

  1. This is such a good series!!! I recently heard about chapter summaries and I thought it was such a good idea… I’ve never done it before but I’m excited to try it out because I think it’ll really work well with my natural process!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much!! I’m glad you’ve enjoyed it! That’s so great! I really hope they go well for you! 😃 I know I’ve certainly loved giving them a try.

      Liked by 1 person

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