I mentioned in an earlier post this week that I’m giving Scrivener a go! I’ve got to say, I’m even more in love with it now than I was earlier in the week. One of the tools it has given me is easily splitting up the manuscript into bite-size pieces. For me, it works best to split up the manuscript into chapters. A chapter is an opportunity to show 1 or more scenes and I really love writing scenes, I’ve discovered. Each of my chapters has several scenes (usually). I mentioned that for Tales from Niflheim 3, I’ve had a bit of an issue with rewrites creating a mess in my manuscript. Scrivener is doing much to help me “unmessify” it, but another approach is also helping me to make it good.

Taking A Manuscript Chapter By Chapter

This may be a “duh” for many of you, but I don’t honestly know that I’ve ever approached a manuscript in this way. It’s funny, because all growing up, I used to write scenes that were completely disconnected from anything else. I would jump around. I would get some really cool writing, done, too! So, yesterday, just for fun, I decided to take a random chapter out of the book and get the first draft completely done.

I chose Chapter Seven. It was one that needed severe rewrites and several previous attempts had gotten it all wonky. So, I dove in. To Chapter Seven. It’s a little against my linear nature to jump so far ahead in the novel as a place to start fixing things, but I realized that each chapter can be its own self-contained entity.

And you know what? I really feel good about the chapter. I got all my rewrites done within (and even worked out the problem I was having later on with the end of the whole story!) and I was able to really feel good about my progress. Sure the other chapters are still in messes and I haven’t gotten all of the other chapters done for the entire book yet, but we’ll get there.

TFN3 has been SUCH a hard book to write. Part of it, I think, the fact that it’s the last in this family’s trilogy and I really feel pressure to make it good. Another part of it, I think, was the fact that I was really struggling with how I wanted to end it. I didn’t know what the villain’s motivations really were. Working in Chapter Seven last night REALLY helped me to flesh that out. I also was able to challenge myself by plowing through the knots I’d created and inconsistencies.

It was glorious. Curious about this chapter by chapter approach? Here are my tips!

1) Break up your manuscript into chapters. Just do it. // You’d be surprised how much peace of mind this gives you. I literally used to tackle entire first drafts in one document. I did that for my first two books and my novella and honestly, thinking back, it really gives your brain a LOT to think about. You can’t just isolate yourself to the chapter or scene at hand (psychologically), because you’re so involved in the book as a whole. So, break it up. You’ll feel better immediately.

2) Start working on the chapter that you feel drawn to the most. Don’t feel you have to start with Chapter One. // This is probably the most surprising advice I would give you, but it honestly made me feel so excited about working on the book yesterday! I kept thinking about my characters and where they were in Chapter Seven and I just HAD to go there, even though my past writing practice was to simply start over and over and over at the beginning (hence, the giant rewriting mess). 😉 If you really want to work on the final chapter RIGHT NOW, then do it!! You’ll feel so much better and you’ll be able to go back and work on previous and after chapters later.

3) Once you get a chapter’s first draft down, mark it in some way so that you know the first draft of that chapter is DONE and it doesn’t need to be touched until you get other chapters’ first drafts done. // This is really easy to do in Scriviner, because you can list the status of a chapter or scene with their nifty drop down information menus. I was able to turn all other chapters’ statuses to “To Do” and Chapter Seven is now the only one with “First Draft” Status. Very helpful, no? If you don’t have Scrivener, keep a journal or some other organizational document so you can keep track of your chapter statuses. Or go get Scrivener because it’s frickin’ awesome!

4) Attack a new chapter when you’re done with the chapter you just tackled. Don’t go back into that chapter until you’ve got an entire manuscript full of first draft chapters. // This will keep you from mucking up other first drafted chapters with rewrites in other sections. Once you’ve got an entire manuscript in its first draft stage, start with the process over with new chapters you feel drawn to OR go with the linear approach from there on out.


This has been such a revolutionary thing for me. I’m having such fun and I really feel like my time is more productive and valuable with this approach. I may not use it forever and I may not even use it for the second draft or third, but for first drafts, this may be my preferred practice now!

Ever done random chapter writing for a manuscript or novel? What are your thoughts on this method? 

Taking a Manuscript Chapter By Chapter
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