A shared characteristic of movie scripts and books is they all have a plot – or a “timeline”. At some point in your writing I suggest that you plot your scenes (or chapters) on a viewable timeline. The form of timeline can be simple – run with the chronological order of time – or can be advanced – mess with time in flashbacks or flash-forwards.

Things to consider for your visible timeline are the number of sequences, the number of scenes (chapters) and how much action you want. You can divide your story into acts; acts are a film thing, but they’ll apply to your book. I mix the terms “chapter” and “scene” to cater for novel writers screenwriters. A common number of sequences can be eight – this depends on the story’s style. You can think of an “act” as the sequences that group for the start, middle and finish, if you like – in this case there would be three, though the number of acts can vary. The point is to get your story’s plot viewable so you can tweak it.

Australian screenwriter
Australian screenwriter

In the timeline I’ve prepared I’ve plotted a number of scenes (chapters) on separate yellow paper. You can see I’ve folded an A3 paper into three sections – the three acts. You can title them “acts”. In my example I’ve titled them “sequences 1” to “3”. Don’t take any notice of this. I stuffed up. I should have titled them “acts 1” to “3”. You could fold the paper into eight sections. It’s up to you. Each sequence, scene and act should have a purpose – something should happen during every brick of the story. If a brick doesn’t have a purpose, get rid of it, or juggle it within the story.

Gaston Cavalleri is an Australian screenwriter, novelist and travel writer.

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