I am - at heart - a creature somewhat prone to habitual behavior. In this instance, the habit I want to discuss has to do with the structure of novels, and how my most recent book is not fitting that format. I also have a thought or two on WHY this is happening, but all in due course.
Over the years I’ve written a lot of books. Most of them range from 80,000 to 100,000 words. Most of them range from twenty-one to twenty-five chapters. Most of the chapters fall in the 3,000-5,000 word range. There have, of course, been some exceptions, but for the most part, my mind seems to have subconsciously determined that this is how books should run. I like to write a chapter in one sitting on the first draft, and my pace, in those days, was pretty blistering. Of course, in the US Navy days, I had more hours in a day to write…
Anyway, over the last week I’ve taken the work in progress, “Tattered Remnants,” which I was writing in one big long, sort of broken up file, and separated it into chapters. The manuscript is about 12,000 words long, and is ten chapters. You have probably already spotted that this is not normal for me, and now I come to my dilemma. If I am going to have an average chapter length of just over a thousand words, then my outline will have to be eighty to a hundred chapters long. That could work, I guess, but I have never outlined in that fashion. Fifty is the most I’ve done, and that was on a recent ghost-writing project. I blame that project, in part, because I got into the flow of the quicker, faster-paced style the client wanted, and now it seems to be influencing my own work. Not sure if that is good, or bad, but it’s definitely a fact.
So…tonight I intend to do some outlining beyond the part where I am now. I am not sure how I’ll go about it, or how I’ll pace it. I’d like to stretch it out - have some more short chapters, but a few longer ones too. I still feel better at 2500 to 3000 than I do at 1000. Maybe it’s just this book? In any case, it got me thinking harder about how the book was structured - and how it will BE structured. In the end, it’s going to be a growing, and learning experience. I just hope I grow and learn in the right direction and in the right fashion.
I am also trying for a solid string of cliff-hanging endings. I can’t recall the titles of any of them, but I remember books where I’d finish reading a chapter, and they would leave it at a point where - no matter what time it was, or what I was doing - I had to check out the first of the next chapter, and usually ended up reading on. That’s what I want for this one. We’ll see how I do, in the long run.
Below are the latest entries at the website dedicated to my new fiction collection, Ennui & Other States of Madness