Every week I learn something new about the writing process.
After all, everything I do is on a trail-by-error basis.
(And there have been quite a few errors. But that’s OK. I’m learning from them, and each lesson is allowing me to improve as a writer.)
While I discovered the other week that, much to my surprise, I’m more of a gardener than I am an architect (George R.R. Martin’s phrase), I’m continuing to discover how that affects me as a writer.
I mentioned that Chapter 8 would likely become Chapters 8 to 12, once I’d decided Chapter 8 was in desperate need of dissection. Barely a week later and that’s already changed again.
Chapter 8 will still be split into about five chapters, but they’ll be spread throughout the first 20 chapters, as opposed to forming a consecutive chunk. The one I wrote this week as Chapter 9 will now appear as Chapter 4. I think this is a much better decision as it will introduce two characters much earlier on, and will spread the narratives more evenly. My only concern is this may cause confusion—something my yet-to-be-assembled reading circle will hopefully be able to tell me.
This changing of chapters may sound like a lack of planning on my part, but the change really comes about due to the reshuffling of the different narratives. If I only had one or two narratives, this wouldn’t likely happen. I have about five, with characters crossing over into each, blurring the distinctions between them. I guess reshuffling was always going to be inevitable. Especially if I’m no architect.
And I’m glad I’m not. This reshuffling allows me to think and re-think of the best possible shape for the story I want to tell.
I spent the end of Friday re-ordering the first 20 chapters, by seeing how they would best connect. It was much like working out the positions of puzzle pieces. Once completed, these first twenty chapters will be what I’ll distribute to my reading circle. I’m still hoping it will be around 70-80,000 words, as opposed to the 100,000+ I began with. I would feel that’d be quite an achievement (as well as a vast improvement) to have 25% more chapters and 30% less words to tell them in.
The order of the chapters will no doubt change again. It’s only once I’ve written their first (or even second) draft that I get a strong idea of where they should go. Even if a chapter doesn’t connect to another narrative, their combined structure can still be determined by each other—things like pacing or reveals can do this.
I don’t mind if the order of the chapters change (and keep changing), as all I need is some semblance of a structure to work with as I write. Like the words in them, the chapters can also be edited.
A large part of my initial planning was my PlotDoc. This is a 80 page document (I’m continually adding new ideas; not all of which get used) containing every chapter (that I currently know of) and the events that occur in each, and any supporting notes. While I look at this every morning and have it open in the adjacent tab to my manuscript, its original appearance is quite different to what I’m actually producing. It’s also getting very messy.
Since I’ve been rewriting and drafting my first 100,000+ words of Everborne, I’ve found it much easier to write a chapter and to then form an idea of what will happen next, as opposed to planning all the chapters before I’ve written anything. I think this works much better for the story, as it enables me to keep the momentum going, without shoehorning in bits of plot.
Chapter 8, which I finished on Tuesday, ends with an important reveal which I hadn’t originally planned for Chapter 16. (I’ve no idea what chapter that now is!) As I was writing 8, I had a feeling that the reveal needed to happen sooner—it was definitely organic—and that it would benefit the story if it appeared here.
Having finished Chapter 8, I moved onto 9—though it’s since become 4. I was very pleased with this chapter as it involves the introduction of a new character and location. The former is a young woman, and I’ll be very interested to hear what the female readers from my yet-to-be-assembled reading circle think of her presentation. She isn’t the only female perspective, but she’s perhaps the most relatable.
As for the location, I think I’ve produced some nice descriptions and imagery. It also includes Magic Realism, which I really enjoyed writing. It’s more subtle than Science Fiction and Fantasy, as surreal elements aren’t taken as common place, while it also blends the world we know with one we don’t.
I’ll begin tomorrow by going over Chapter 9 4. Afterwards, I’ll move onto 9 and 15. This may sound illogical, but they’re focused in the same location and involve the same characters.
I quite enjoy writing narratives in chapter chunks, as I get engrossed in what’s going on. I still like changing between narratives, though, as it keeps the writing exciting by visiting different characters and settings and stories. Even though the narratives might not yet link, I think it’s important to write by going between them. Sometimes this can be hard—-characters, settings, style etc. all very—but I think it benefits the shapes of the chapters and how they effect the overall shape of the story. The breaks between narratives also allows them to breathe, while I can think where to go next.
(Before writing, this is how I spend every morning. I’m unequivocally fortunate.)