Beginnings, Completions, and “Splitting” Headaches
Chapters Completed: 1
Chapters In Progress: 5
Things have been busy since the last Chronicle in April, both for creative (open mic nights, Massachusetts Poetry Festival, and juggling all of my projects) and personal reasons. This translated to less time than expected for novel-writing. But that’s OK. A packed schedule will happen once in a while. What matters is that I squeezed in time when I could and moved along with the novel regardless.
Starting with this Chronicle, I’m adding a “ticker” (I don’t know what else to call it) that shows how many chapters I’m currently working on using the “skip-around” or “writercopter” method. As of yesterday, I now have five chapters in progress – and one chapter that is DONE! Yes!! Well, “done” as in “first-draft done.” I’m sure it will need revising when the time to revise comes. But reaching that first chapter is a significant milestone, one that made me want to dance. I rewarded myself that night with a trip to Spruce Pond Creamery for some homemade ice cream. Yum!
The completed chapter I’m talking about is the current Chapter 11. This part of the book features an action scene where the protagonist and her companions are attacked and then forced to make a decision about their survival. It also shows the protagonist continuing to experiment with her magical abilities and further establishes the dynamics between the travel party. In other words, a lot happens in a short amount of time, making this chapter an important one.
I’ve also worked on Chapters 1 and 10 since the last Chronicle. Chapter 10 is near completion. I’m having trouble figuring out how to finish the conversation that closes the chapter, so I’m leaving it alone for a while. Chapter 1 is pretty far along, maybe halfway done at this point. I’d been seesawing between possible ways of beginning this novel – because the beginning needs to be good. I’ve read and heard from different sources that the opening paragraph and the first five pages of a manuscript are crucial. Those sections have to grab the reader’s attention and show the plot is already in motion. I’ve had a couple ideas for starting Chapter 1, but after a while my enthusiasm for each one fizzled. Then yesterday, toward the end of my writing session, a new idea for a beginning popped into my head. It’s similar to the previous ones, but with a different angle – one that offers suspense, the kind that tells you something is seconds away from happening. This angle made me jittery with excitement by the time I stopped my writing session. I already can’t wait to return to that section of the book.
I also realized something about Chapter 1 this past week: It may need to be split in two. It’s already as long as Chapters 10 and 11 – and like I said in the previous paragraph, it’s only halfway finished. I don’t think it means that I need to cut out half of my ideas for Chapter 1. (Now is the wrong time to think about editing!) All of the events for that original single chapter are central to the plot. Instead, I view it as a sign that I had planned too many events (or too long of a scene) for a single chapter. I’ll consider this a little longer before I make my final decision – but there’s a real possibility that Chapter 1 will become Chapters 1 and 2.
Which will then force me to renumber all of the chapters that follow. (Imagine me partly chuckling, partly groaning as I wrote that sentence.) And who knows? Maybe I’ll run into the same issue with other chapters and have to make the same “split decision.” Of course, that would be mean that in future Chronicles, the original Chapter 20 could change to Chapter 22 and so on. Wouldn’t that confuse you, the reader? Perhaps I should start referring to each chapter with a code name instead of a number.
Ay carumba. But really, who ever said that everything’s set in stone when you’re working on a first draft of a novel?
I should mention that I have additional scenes that I’ve started by hand. If I’m traveling or doing something else and my laptop isn’t available or convenient to use, I turn to the old-fashioned method. I take a notebook or journal and a pen almost everywhere I go. That way, I can work on something – a new poem, my next CD review, or a scene for the novel – as soon as I can sneak in time to write, wherever I am. These manually written scenes are not included in the 10,000-word count, though. It’s too difficult (and time-consuming) to try to keep a tally of your words as you scribble things on one piece of paper after another. And in the grand scheme of novel-writing, the word count is only a statistic: fun to track (especially for the purposes of these Chronicles), but only a speck of sand on the beach.
One last thing: I’m considering some kind of “reveal” for “Chronicling The Craft: 25,000 Words.” That’s a few articles (and at this rate, a few months) away at this point, but part of me thinks it might be cool to give you a first glimpse into the world of my novel without giving away too much of the plot. What do you think? If I were to do some kind of “reveal” when I hit the 25,000-word mark, what would you like to read about? Maybe the universe where the story takes place, the race of the main protagonist, or something else? Let me know by commenting on this article or posting a response on my Facebook page. I’d be happy to hear from you!
Next Chronicle: When I reach the 15,000-word mark