I know many, maybe most writers, have some sort of plan when they start writing; they have an idea where there story is going. My mind and my imagination don’t work like that; this is just the way I do it, and I spend a lot of thinking time with my characters and events, just thinking, just pondering and puzzling.
For a reader (including me) I like the convenience of chapters; I know it’s a convention that some ignore, but I have an expectation that the book will be separated into chunks, and as the narrative and the scenes change this is fairly straight forward. However, it sometimes happens that making these arbitrary separations of different bits of story ends up with some ‘chapters’ being double or triple the size of others, and some are barely a page long. This can be ok in terms of the story, but for the reader it can be ‘Oh crikey, is this bit ever going to end, I want to go to sleep/do something else/ see my family‘ or ‘heck! Was that it? All of it?‘
With my way of working I get to the end of the actual writing, and most of the editing, and then I start organizing the chapters – and sometimes I do this just on numbers, how many pages in each. If I do it like this I still have to make sure that the chapter is complete in itself and if there are different parts of it they do relate to each other and justify their place rather than in the preceding one or the one after or having a whole new chaptership of their own.
Chapters need in a way to be like mini-narratives, with an introductory part, even if its only a sentence, to launch the reader and make sure the reader knows where they are and who they are with; at the end it needs to have a completeness within itself, even if it is a bit of a cliff-hanger which sends the reader onto the next chapter.
This is just the way I do it; I may start doing it differently, I might have a relation and begin to write differently… but I think that this is the way it works for me… at the moment!
With my next novel, Lucky Portbraddon, coming out in September, it’s finished and I’m tidying it up. It’s a long story with many different strands of story-line. There are six main characters, and it’s in essence their stories which are told, so there is a lot of interweaving story lines and perspectives. The plot follows the events and relationships of these six, plus about six other people over a year, from Christmas to Christmas. As well as this there is a significant back story of one particular person which follows its own narrative as events over the last thirty years leading up to the present are explained.
Another factor with organizing this story, is that as well as being complex (however did Dickens and Tolstoy manage) it is very long (however did Dickens and Tolstoy manage)… However, I’ve had a burst of confidence and writing energy and I’m counting pages in each chapter, noting start lines and conclusions of each one and listing events within them… just to make sure I get the right balance and don’t exhaust or annoy my readers!
So today, I shall be mostly counting words!
if you haven’t yet read any of my novels, you can find hem here: