I'm searching to improve the way I write, and so I started to create just scenes, for example a battle.

Is it a good idea as it is not integrated in a well-established story ?

5 Answers 5


I would be careful. Yes, there is much to be said for learning a complex skill by practicing in parts. But there is a real and pervasive danger of getting caught up in language when you should be focusing on story. As Robert McKee points out, it is easy for writers for fall in love with individual scenes and be unwilling to throw them away when they don't fit the story they are supposed to be telling.

The hardest skill to learn, and that thing that will make all the difference to your career as a writer, is story. To practice scenes apart from stories may therefore be to focus your effort in the place it is going to do the least good.

And there is another trap here as well. The best way to achieve any effect in a novel -- to produce any emotion or reaction in the reader -- is through story. If you work on scenes divorced from story, you deprive yourself of this means of producing an effect, and this may lead you to try to hard to produce the effect in other ways, such as by florid language or an over-emphasis on describing how people feel or react to things.

It is story that will make or break you. Figure our story and the scenes will come naturally enough.

  • Yep! You don’t want your scenes tell you how to turn your plot. It’s your plot that leads. That said, I don’t see harm in practicing scenes. If, at all, he falls in love with a scene, he can analyze what makes it so good, and reproduce that effect in a similar plot driven scenario.
    – Akash
    Commented Jan 1, 2017 at 17:05
  • Thanks so much for posting that thing about writers falling in love with scenes. I always, always, always wanted to know if I was the only one. I used to have it, but have distanced myself from the scene-obsession now. Commented Jan 1, 2017 at 18:51
  • @DanielCann You are not the only one. McKee's Story is a great read on this subject. The most important message of that book, I think, is that it is storytelling, not writing, that matters. There are many people who can write beautifully, McKee says, but very few that can tell a story.
    – user16226
    Commented Jan 1, 2017 at 19:43

I think it's a great exercise to strengthen your writing skills. You can focus on one thing to improve — descriptions, or characterization, or pacing, or sentence structure — and just focus on that, instead of worrying about how it fits into the overall scheme of your book. There's no pressure to adhere to anything fore or aft in a story, so you have complete freedom to take the scene wherever you want.

In fact, I've recommended this technique elsewhere on this board to help work on learning your characters. Adapt it for anything you need. Or for the pleasure of writing short scenes. If you write enough with the same elements (same people, same setting), you might find a story emerging. Or not. No writing is wasted.


Every sentence written, is a step towards perfection, If there exists perfection, in this all so imperfect world.

Writing scenes and non related dialogue chains can be good practice if you keep in mind its merits and limitations.

It will

  • make your writing crisp.
  • improve your ability to simplify language enabling the reader to focus on your story.
  • help picture the details of a scene and paint a mental picture as you write.
  • Help keep said mental picture consistent between scenes. (You do not want readers confusing a mistake as an element of plot)
  • create a discipline in you to write a little, every day. But discipline in writing pieces of unrelated text, won’t help much with working on a single plot for a long period of time.

It won’t:

  • Improve you story telling skills.
  • Improve your ability to expand a plot to various sub plots and parallel stories.
  • Help you build characters. Character develops from the first paragraph and end with the final period in your book.
  • give you the discipline required to finish a book draft. It's easy to start a book, and really very difficult to finish one (Even the first draft!).

All the best.


It sounds like a great idea. Are you serious about writing a 'well-established story'? If you are practicing and learning, I don't see the problem in using your idea. You may also benefit in writing a bunch of short stories or scenes.


I think everyone else has excellent answers. However, I would like to add my thoughts.

Try to write down the story behind it

I think a scene has the most power when it is affected by things. It isn't just 'being a scene', there are things that led to it, things that are affected by it. And what I guarantee, is that when you are writing, your brain will make those extra little strands of story to make the individual scene make sense.

I used to try writing single scenes too, I thought they were pretty exciting. However, I was quick to discover that they weren't befitting me as a writer. As Mark Baker said in his answer, I became attached to some scenes I was writing and bursting to include them in a book where that sort of thing wouldn't make sense. Furthermore, I wasn't practicing all the skills I could be practicing. I wasn't practicing storytelling, which is argueably the most important part of writing.

I felt much better when I was creating short stories of 1000-3000 words to put my scene in. This will allow you to practice more skills, as well as get a feel for how the scene interlinks with the larger work. It's all well and good being able to describe a single scene well, but ultimately the larger work is what matters and especially the story.


  • Give the scene more meaning by making it more than just a scene. Put it in a very small short story to host it. This will also help you develop storytelling skills.

  • Avoid becoming attached to a scene.

  • Try writing short stories rather than just scenes, because they are better for building up to being able to write a novel. Unless you are just attempting to become a writer who can describe things, you need to write stories.

I wrote many short stories before trying to write entire novels and they did help me. They helped me much more than when I was writing scenes, and I was more entertained by writing them too. So I would say in your case, try writing a few short stories and see how it goes.

I hope this helped.

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