I thought I’d share with you a glimpse at the number of times I’ve started various chapters and sections of my book before landing on what felt right.
In case you can’t see the image above, I have two chapters that I’m happy with, and:
3 chapter ones
2 chapter twos
1 each of chapters three through five
2 chapters about a character named “Peterson”
The total word count of these false starts is:
For those who don’t think in word count, let me translate that for you. Generally, I figure about 300 words per novel page. This would be for a standard size paperback.
44,081 / 300 = 146.936666667
So…let’s just round that up to 147 pages. That’s how much I’ll likely get rid of, though I may take pieces of what I wrote earlier where I like the way I worded something. Sometimes, this is what it takes, and I’m okay with that.
But if you’ve ever thought it’d be easy to write a book, it’s not. I’m not saying this to discourage anyone–if you feel you have a story to tell, by all means, you should find a way to tell it. I just want you to go in with honest expectations; writing is work.
There are some books that refuse to be written. They stand their ground year after year and will not be persuaded. It isn’t because the book is not there and worth being written — it is only because the right form of the story does not present itself. There is only one right form for a story and if you fail to find that form the story will not tell itself.
At present, I’m offering two works of serial fiction on WattPad: Pathogen and Rings of Saturn. While there are a number of differences between each of these stories, such as genre, one of the main differences is the way I’m approaching the work.
Pathogen has already been written for the most part. I’m editing and revising each piece for style before posting it, but the story is mostly composed and edited, and beyond that it’s planned.
Rings of Saturn, on the other hand, is something else. I have an overall plan in mind–i.e. I know where I’m going with the story and with each update before I sit down to write it, but I’m storing it in my head and just writing on the day of release.
The latter is how Dickens wrote his serial fiction, so I’m trying it out. I have other stories that are already drafted and could be released on WattPad in the same way I’m releasing Pathogen, but I’m not going to start any more stories until at least one more month. I want to finish my semester as a TA first and see how life is laying out for the last month of my MFA semester (by that point).
I’m enjoying trying out different approaches on WattPad. So far Rings of Saturn is proving the more popular story by number of reads as you can see from the screenshot above. It has only one more vote though. It’s too soon to tell if the difference is the genre/story or the way I’m approaching each project.
Where writers choose to work on their craft matters. I was in a Starbucks today, meeting someone to sell some crafting equipment. (I decided to stop crafting anything but stories and poems because everything else is just a distraction.) As I stood there, I observed people sitting and working on laptops and tablets. Most of them had headphones on. Most were tucked into some dark corner, ignoring everyone around them so they could concentrate. One guy was spread out over half the counter and glared at me when I sat down, like my mere presence was disruptive to his workspace.
I wondered why these people bothered to come to the coffee shop to work at all. Maybe their homes are noisy. Well, Starbucks was noisy–and with some construction going on outside, I hope their headphones were noise-cancelling. Maybe their homes are too distracting. But the comings and goings of a busy coffee shop would distract me.
There’ve been so many times people have suggested I go and work at a coffee shop, but I just can’t bring myself to do it. It’s not based on concern that I’ll seem pretentious–I don’t think I am pretentious and even if I seemed that way to others, it wouldn’t really affect me. It’s based on the fact that I don’t think I’d be as productive.
When I’m writing, especially fiction or poetry, any real-world distraction is detrimental to my focus, to my work. I’m usually searching my brain for the exact right word or playing out a scene in my head. The only place I can efficiently do this is closed up in my small bedroom. I go full-screen on my computer and ignore everything else if I really need to concentrate. For me, writing in public spaces is like inviting the public into my imagination while I try to sort out a story in there. It just doesn’t work for me.
Where do you write? If you’re not a writer, where do you work? If you work in an office, where would you prefer to work? Why?
I’ve always wanted to form some kind of writing community where hard-working writers can gather to improve their craft. If you’d be interested in that sort of thing–irrespective of any particular genre–please consider answering the brief questions below.
We’re getting another nor’easter tomorrow. We just had one Friday. All winter there’ve been almost no storms and now we’re getting hammered. Thanks, March.
The good thing about the likelihood of being trapped indoors all day is that there’s plenty of time for writing, even if we lose power–though I’d rather we didn’t because it’s not going to be warm and most of my writing resources are on the computer. Of course, I could write by hand and then type it up.
At any rate, I won’t be going anywhere tomorrow because even if we get mostly rain, the winds are going to be severe.