How to Write a Novel: Step 8

Scene Blocking

This article is available in video format!

Scene Blocking basically means roughly describing everything that happens in each scene from beginning to end. It should include every action, including rough descriptions of what the characters do, what they say, and where they go.

This can be an extremely useful exercise, especially for beginners, and can be instrumental in ensuring the first draft flies out at breakneck speed.

It means that when it comes to writing the actual prose of your novel all the story beats are in place, and a lot of the plot points, so you can focus on letting the writing flow.

However, some writers find it more effective to skip this planning stage and jump straight to the First Draft at this point. If you’re itching to let your characters loose, then feel free to treat this step as optional.

Scene Blocking Guidelines

Blocking means describing what happens in each scene, but it should not be written in a prose form, or include detailed descriptions, or full dialogue.

It's useful to think of it as stage directions. Blocking describes the story beats, without getting bogged down worrying about elegant sentences or vocabulary. Because it’s just an outline, it’s perfectly fine for it to be riddled with repetitive phrases, clichés and bad descriptions. It’s not about writing something elegant, it’s about working out the story beats.

However, if inspiration strikes, then do note down specific dialogue or elegant details.

While doing the blocking you can keep referring to your notes to ensure any important information is mentioned in the right place.

The blocking for a given scene should probably be in the region of about 100-500 words and should include all the plot and character critical details that need to go into that scene.

If your blocking is getting significantly over 500 words, perhaps you're writing in too much detail, or it could be a sign that too much is happening in one scene and it may need to be split in two.

The main key to blocking is to let the story flow and the characters guide you, don’t overthink the specifics of what you should include and how you write it. It something feels right, go with it.


Here's an example of the blocking for a scene, just to give you an idea of the kind of things that might be in there...

Lorelei is in the Head’s office, thinking: just don’t do anything to make it worse. There is a sapling on the chair beside her. The chair is uncomfortable and she shifts and wriggles.

The Head is most unimpressed and tells her that she’s had many complaints about this constant daydreaming and living in a fantasy world, reading silly stories, and this appears to prove her disconnection from reality.

Lorelei thinks about how she was trying to impress the art teacher, who’d had it in for her ever since she pointed out she was pronouncing Joan Miro wrong. But what’s the point in trying to explain, no one ever listens.

It’s clear Lorelei is having trouble fitting in, though her brother seems to be doing okay.

Lorelei loses concentration, listening to the clock that’s saying tut tut tut. She glances around the orderly office and wonders how the teacher got the plant to grow in an orderly fashion.

Annoyed that she’s not listening the Head reprimands her and says this is her second warning, one more and she’ll be suspended – does she understand what that means?

Lorelei mumbles yes, miserably.

The head says she has enough to worry about with children going missing, without this nonsense.

She hands Lorelei a letter and along with it a waft of sickly sweet perfume and tells her to give it to her mother at the earliest opportunity. The bell rings and she’s dismissed. She’s very pleased to get away and nearly trips in her hurry.

Your Task

In the Manuscript section of the Novel Factory, click on each of the scenes in the scene list (which are automatically created to correspond with your index cards in the Plot Manager section) and in the word processor, roughly write what happens in that scene, from beginning to end. You can view the scene summary (as is shown on the index card) in the Related Info sidebar on the right - and use it as a reference.

Or, you can simply write it down on paper on in a Word doc, or however you prefer.

This article is available in video format!