NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) starts in seven days. Yikes! Time to get your affairs in order, in more ways than one. Today let’s get our non-writing lives organized, pull scenes together more, and learn about the cement that flows between scenes:  summaries and half scenes.


Organization for Life and Novel

If this is your first NaNo, I highly recommend visiting the official website and signing up. Once inside, go to the Writer’s Resources tab, scroll down to NaNo Prep. Half way down the page is a button for downloading the NaNo Prep Handbook. Check it for great suggestions on how to get household chores done ahead of the writing marathon you are about to embark on. Now is the time to organize your space and take care of all the errands. I’ve been vacuuming like crazy — who knows when it will happen again — and stocking up on groceries. Any spare time you can open up by preparing in advance will be well worth it.

The good news is that while you are cleaning and running errands, you can also be planning your novel. Play with scenes in your head. Tell yourself parts of your story while you are traveling. Jot down notes while dusting. It will be time well spent.

Because we’re doing chores today, our lesson will be brief.

Summaries and Half Scenes

Scenes are the main building blocks of novels, but there are other formats that you may not have heard about. Summaries and half scenes can fill in between scenes to help carry the plot along.


If your story jumps ahead in time or has a series of events that would bog down your novel if you wrote each one as a scene, then it is possible to tell your reader about the gap as a summary.  A summary is a quick overview of what happened (not in real time), rather than the play-by-play drama of a scene.


During the ensuing five years, Carrie married her high school sweetheart. She still missed John, especially when she went to the movie house on Fifth Street, the one where they had had their first date. But over the years, the pain had faded…

Half Scene

A half scene is a mix of scenes and summaries. It may have short bits of action or dialogue interspersed with sections that tell more than show. Flashbacks often take the form of a half scene.

Walking along the park, the waft of jasmine in the air brought it back to me.

It was my freshman year of college and I was drowning. Few students were as ill-prepared for college life as I was, but then in Chem 101, I dropped my books and he — my knight in shining armor — helped me pick them up …

If you’d like to learn more, writing guru Marylee MacDonald has full articles about half scenes and summaries with some more advanced examples.

How is you preparation going?


Visit our 30 Day Novel Prep Page for all the links.