NaNo Buddies, A Secret I Shouldn’t Be Telling You Yet

November 11, 2012

I know I shouldn’t be telling you this trick about Chapter Breaks yet, but I couldn’t wait.

I’m bad that way.

Before I do though, let’s back up a second and I’ll show you my plan to date. If you remember, I decided this year to take some short stories and deconstruct them, to find my way into my own writings. I blogged about it HERE

I used the whole NaNo pre-work month reading a slew of short stories. Taking each one and deconstructing what was done in them craft-wise. So I came away with a set of notes, about 20 stories were picked over.

With that hunk of notes I figured I’d write a chapter for each set of the deconstruction notes.
With my three MCs and the idea of alternating chapters to provide another view of the trio, I figured I’d be moving between 4 entities as I wrote: Linda, Max, Juliet, and someone in town’s POV.

I know that most publishers are looking for work in the 80K range, so I knew my NaNo goal. I ran some rather vague ideas for an Arc for each MC, and the 4th Arc of what was going on at large. And I set up scene ideas in Scrivener for each of these. (here’s the post about that)

That resulted in 20 chapters set up, each with approximately 12 scenes allotted to each chapter.
Each MC gets 5 of those chapters, and that makes for a nice 5-act breakdown of each individual Arc.

Now, I didn’t plan any of this out to the point of plot-points and things. I’m a pantser. I just set up place holders for it all. I write about 2 chapters out at any time.
I still have no Idea where I’m headed and I’m up to the 23K’s now, in week two.

Now, for that secret:

Once I have a completed first draft, I’ll look at some current novel I really appreciate, see how many pages each chapter is running, an re-cut my chapter breaks to follow suit. I find that doing that once the first draft is complete, randomly cuts into my original chapters at just the serendipitous points that really heighten the story line; leaving the reader wanting to turn that page and continue on with the story.

But that final arrangement isn’t even considered until a full first draft is complete.

Take any older work of your own that’s nearly done, find a published book you admire, and see what they are doing with chapter breaks, (figure that the line count per published page, times 10, times the number of pages per published chapter, then translate that count to your manuscript word count to find an equal number of pages).

Translation: if the book has 31 lines a page, that’s (times 10 words a line) 310 words approx per page. Say each chapter is 11 pages, that added up to 3,410 words.

So you’d look at your own manuscript, you’d make your new chapter breaks at approximately every 3, 400 words.

Try it out: Once you have a first draft, recalibrate your work, and see if the new breaks do anything to up the storytelling level, simply by breaking in new ways and giving the piece a new flow, and rhythm. It’s pretty freaky, but it works.



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