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July 13, 2004

Creativity Within Structure « Writing »

Okay, I'm writing again. I got a new laptop a few days ago, and it is finally all set up and ready to go.

I lost about 3000 words when my last laptop crashed during the deployment. But it wasn't a big deal because I was forcing the words while painting myself into a corner. The 2 months off has been good for my mind, and I've thought of a few improvements, so I think I'll start over.

One of the problems the last time around was that I wasn't sure where to put chapter breaks, and some scenes were dragging, others too brief. Pacing was all screwed up, to say the least. So I got an idea: the average novel has 16 major scenes, usually divided as chapters. I want to try to write a 50,000 word novel, and 3,000 words per chapter/scene would be 48,000 words. In a way, that can help me, because I can adjust the pacing and the information flow/revelations by a general word count. Every 3k words or so, cliffhanger for a chapter ending. If I have a lot that needs to happen in one chapter, I can polish to the point that I am succinct and concise enough to fit it in 3k words, and the motive force for the reader is the development. In chapters where less occurs, I can polish to the point that the prose and description are lush and vivid, and the motive force for the reader can be in backfilling developments or setting the stage or introducing deeper levels of plot or character. In short, it will give me a framework to work with.

I originally started this novel by writing a one-sentence plot, then expanding it into a paragraph, then expanding that into a series of 17 sentences (one for each chapter... at the time, I had 17 major points), then expanding those into paragraphs; and finally attempting to expand each one into a full chapter. It didn't work, because some of the chapters were vague in my mind, and I kept thinking up stuff that invalidated some of my plans, or the more I thought about the plot, the weaker some parts of it seemed. That's how I "painted myself into corners".

The difference now is that I've been concentrating on only this novel for 8 months now, and I've been thinking about it for nearly 18 months, so I can actually hold the entire idea in my mind. Now it appears I'm finally ready for the structure.

For the limits. Because the difference between a story and meandering is the structure you give it. I am thinking of each chapter/scene as a bucket, and I'm going to throw words at each bucket until it is full. If there's too much to fit in one bucket, I'll throw out the stuff that's not as good, or maybe move it to another bucket. In any case, I think this structure is the mental development I need to finish the novel. Or, at the very least, the next step I must take in the continuum of effort through which I must progress to finish it. Whatever.

Posted by Nathan at 01:34 PM | Comments (3)

Wow. I always just put chapter breaks where the commercial would go if it were a TV-movie. That is, at a point where it's logical to leave off for narrative or emotional effect. It means some of the chapters I've written have been kinda short, though.

Posted by: McGehee at July 13, 2004 02:56 PM

Have you ever considered NaNoWriMo? If you don't know what it is, it's an event that happens during national writing month (November).

It's ran off of the website

The whole point of the exercise is to write a novel in a month, no matter how good, no matter how bad, it's basically just something to keep you writing. The forums and such are helpful with help and such.

Uhh yeah, just something I'm throwing out there.

Posted by: Todd Johnson at July 13, 2004 11:22 PM

I participated in Andy's program last year, but didn't get very far. However, it did really get me going on this road that has me feeling like this time I can finish. But I'd like to try a different novel this year, so I have to finish this one before November...

Posted by: Nathan at July 14, 2004 06:38 AM
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