Monday, August 31, 2009


I haven't made a Wordle to commemorate it (though maybe I should), but I finished Chapter 17 yesterday.

It did not write itself.

It would not, as Admiral Croft said of Sir Walter Elliot, set the Thames on fire, yet potentially it contains some important elements that will prove useful later.

A larger point, though, is that this is the third time (in a row) that I finished a chapter in about two weeks. The sense of forward momentum seems more important right now than highly polished writing, at least I hope forward is the direction I am going. As opposed to say, sideways.

One thing I struggled with a lot in my first attempt to write a novel, a few years back, was keeping the whole thing in mind at one time. It seemed impossible. Actually, it is impossible, but some things I am doing differently this time around make it seem slightly less so.

Having chapter breaks is important. It provides a sense of accomplishment, however illusory (in many cases my chapter breaks are most arbitrary), to conclude a chapter, type it up and leave that half-page of white space at the bottom of the last page.

Writing fairly fast is also important, because the novel is kind of a living thing. It doesn't like to be left alone too long. It loses its urgency.

Having an outline is important. This was the single most valuable thing I took away from my time at the Sackett Street Writers' Workshop (which is not to say I did not take away many other valuable things, because I did). It's not that I have followed the plan, precisely, because the story has turned out to be more interesting than the plan -- there was a key plot element that I did not even anticipate until it drove up. It's not even that I consult the plan very often. I don't really seem to need to. But it's there. I can go back and look at it whenever I want to. It, too, provides a sense of accomplishment that is illusory and yet important.

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