Some time ago I published an article on using Excel to maintain a master scene list for my novel. The spreadsheet recorded items such as Scene number, time of day, characters involved, scene synopsis, point of view character and the like. Now that the first draft of Western Watch is completed, I thought I would do a little statistics analysis of the collected data.
I found the results quite interesting, and you can carry out your own analysis using the techniques described below.
I wrote long — 133,500 words. I’ve read the sweet spot for a novel is between 80,000 to 100,000 words. That may be for the traditional publishing route. As I plan to self-publish, this is less of a concern. Nonetheless, there is room to cut and I ready have some scenes in mind for the chopping block.
Story Distribution Statistics
The story takes place over thirteen days, and I divided the days into morning, afternoon, and evening for the purposes of tracking. Each was given a code. For example, the code for morning, Day 13 is:
When I did some simple data summary I discovered the vast bulk of the novel occurs in one day:
The first day sees only two scenes, then nothing happens until the seventh day. There are dribs and drabs of action all the way up the thirteenth, and last, day of the story. Merreth is a very busy girl that day, and the data suggests that I might want to see about spreading some of the action out over several days, just to give her some down time. 🙂
Character Appearance Statistics
When deciding what scenes to cut I think it’s instructive to take a look at the distribution of character appearances throughout the story. To that end I did a count of a how many scenes each character appeared in. The results lent some insight into my writing:
Lady Merreth gets the lion’s share of appearances, which is only to be expected as she is the protagonist. However, I was a little surprised that she was only in 60% of the scenes. Lady Samretta was a completely unexpected character. I had originally conceived her as a “throw away” character but she absolutely refused to leave the page. Eventually she evolved her own sub plot and has become integral to the entire story.
Lady Tiandraa is Lady Merreth’s chief antagonist and her scene count seems a bit low. I think i will need to ramp that up a bit in the second draft. Totlenn — a key character — comes in at 17% of the scenes. Again, this may be a bit low. Several characters are tied for fifth place, so to speak. Their percentages are about right.
Not shown at the characters that I had thought would be play a large role but wound up appearing in only a handful of scenes. These are ripe for cutting or combining.
I found tracking this information as I wrote the first draft to be useful. It’s something that everyone does, I think, when preparing to write their second draft. I just thought I would use Excel to the formalize the process.
Do you do any scene analysis after the first draft?