I wanted to talk a bit about what I’ve experienced with my recent writing challenge and why I think it’s working for me.
The challenge is simple enough. @sarahreede and I agreed to challenge each other to write a novel. We would commit to 750 words a day, every day, until our works were done. So you don’t need to do the math, that gives me a 100,000 word novel in about 4 ½ months. Well, a first draft anyway. Every Tuesday night we’re supposed to check in and see how we’re each coming along.
The results have been nothing short of amazing. I have hit my 750 words a day, every day for the last 14 days, which puts me at just over 10,000 words or 10% of my supposed goal.
750 words isn’t a lot. I can write it in an hour if I’m motivated and like what I’m putting down, a couple if I am struggling a bit.
But it seems that as I write this novel, 750 words is something more than just a goal. It appears to be the length (almost to the word) I need to do a short scene.
That’s right, as of today, I have written fourteen short scenes in a cohesive story. It’s a good, comfortable length for me. It urges me to begin each scene Medias Res and leave while the leaving’s good. Not only that, I have found that six scenes (so far) make a chapter.
You might ask yourself, “What if you need to do one longer or one shorter? Are you restricting your writing this way?” (You may have already tuned-out to my regurgitation of self discovery…)
Not at this point. I did have one very short scene and right after it (maybe to balance things out?) one longer one.
I think it has something to do with how I became a writer. I started with poetry. The structures of poems (yawn, I know) excite the heck out of me. I love trapping myself in a certain structure based on how I start a poem and then using that structure throughout. It really works both sides of my brain. But more than that, I need that structure to continue. I’ve never been good at free verse works, or at least they haven’t thrilled me as much. I think it’s probably because the accomplishment of meeting those structural requirements wasn’t part of the work.
Also, I wrote for radio for twelve years. In this gig I was required to write fifteen, thirty or sixty seconds of copy for a commercial or promo. This trained my brain to live within the structure of time/word count as I created.
Now I’m here with a task of writing 100,000 words in 750 word chunks each day. It’s actually not surprising that my brain is placing the story in these nice little bite-sized pieces.
But I’m concerned about what it will look like when complete. I’ve already got a list of places where I will have to go back and expound on one thing or another to make the tale more complete or simply more engaging. So the final analysis will not show the strange structure I am working with today.
But will it work? Will my method be too obvious?
One of my favorite authors is Dean Koontz. I’m currently reading the second Frankenstein novel he created with Ed Gorman. They are great fun and I believe there is something instantly attractive about a story that takes something that is part of our common lore and writes either a continuation of the events of the original or fictionally purports to know how things really went down. Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal by Chris Moore comes to mind here as well.
When it comes to Mr. Koontz, he is the master of short scenes. In his case, every scene is a chapter and they are short. This novel, which is about 80,000 words, is 80 chapters long.
As writers though, we simply cannot create unless we have found a comfortable skin in which to do our work. For me, structure of word count, structure of scene length, structure of chapter length side-by-side with a flagrant discovery writer’s lack of structure for story including theme, arc and development are for me.
And if it doesn’t work? Well, I’ve learned something then, have I not?
By the way, this post according to Word, is exactly 750 words long.