Finishing first draft of a Western Horror novel.

I've been using resources from the Eva Deverell. The novel beat sheet has been invaluable in keeping me on a narrow, well-defined track.

And this article Building a Story: Chapters vs. Scenes from Jami Gold.

For me, the scenes are relatively easy and fun. The 1,000 word budget for a 50,000-word target helps me stay focused. The beat sheet has some blank placeholders, sometimes these expand into scenes, and sometimes they get deleted.

The good news is bumping into a kind of complexity limit. The base stories are two journeys to discover a past trauma. One as unwilling participant and the other as dispassionate observer.

I'd like to stuff in a 3rd B-story -- a McGuffin chase -- but, I think I'd lose all of the depth and color. I may be wrong about this. Or. More likely, my writing skills aren't at all what I think they are. It may be that I have too much depth and color, and some McGuffin shoot-outs, and galloping off into the desert on stolen horses might be more fun than what I have.

I think I've got enough murders and attempted murders. I dislike a high body count because it devalues the loss and trauma. Two lessons of the US Civil War is folks can live through gruesome injuries; and the guns of 1850 are -- at best -- going to deliver gruesome injuries.

After bashing out the first draft, I've been refining each beat within the overall structure of the scenes and chapters. For me, it requires punctuating the beat with action as well as reflection. (Avoiding head-hopping means some characters are limited to tell-tale actions.)

I'm doing some scene splits, also. To cut down on exposition, I've split scenes into beats that reveal back story and character's takes on the back story that (I think) clarify the confict. I have a feeling I'm not disciplined enough here, and need to spend more time in the Character Sheet part of Scrivener. Splitting a scene tends to diverge from the one-page beat-sheet design. I don't know if this is good or bad.

I don't focus on the chapters when I'm writing. I try to include some setting for each scene, and leave it at that. But some sequences of scenes will involve a chapter break. I feel (strongly) each chapter should stand alone, and have enough setting to make some sense.

My idea is that a chapter -- when read aloud around a campfire -- shouldn't require extensive back-story. The setting won't be complete, but it should touch on the previous plot points.

I think the next step is to reactivate my Critters™ Workshop account and try out some chapters with beta readers.