Novel-Writing in Real Time – Parts 7-13 of…err…10: ’21 down, 9 more to go’

Good news, peeps; a little behind the deadline, perhaps, but I’ve finished the chapter!

And I can prove it:


A brief explanatory note. I write chapters of more-or-less 10,000 words each. There are two reasons for this. One is that I am ingloriously dreadful at maths and this makes the sums easy. But the other, much more artistically-relevant reason is that 10,000 words is enough to get happily involved with. You can do a lot in 10,000 words (among other things, in other contexts, you can write a Master’s thesis in 10,000 words). 10,000 words gives your characters room to breathe, your action room to advance and – most importantly – the consequences of your actions room to be explored.

This can happen in one of two ways. Either you can build the chapter around some big event – have it as the centrepiece, the focal point of the whole thing, with the lead-up and the aftereffects balanced – or you can plonk it right at the end, which gives you 10,000 words of a run-up, a cliffhanger, and then a nice big new chapter to explore things further. And if you’re really clever, you can do both, by having the event at the centre of the chapter and then have the aftermath of that event suddenly twist, and use that twist to propel the narrative in the next chapter.

I have seldom been that clever.But when it works, my friends, it is awesome.

Then, when you’ve written the thing, you start farming it out to your beta readers (obviously, you’re the alpha reader) – hey Jo – and get their feedback. I’m terribly fortunate in that the benighted souls on whom I inflict these first drafts are good at giving useful critiques. And, occasionally, they say things like “I think you’ve made a mistake here” and I get to say “Haha, I know why you think that, but you need to trust me on this one because I know what’s coming up 40,000 words down the line and it’ll all make sense.” That’s fun.

And now I get to carry on. ‘Rubicon Calling’ is written; ‘Nachthexen’ awaits. (On that note, incidentally, the book I was waiting for that was going to help with the chapter has arrived – and it’s no use at all. Back to Amazon I will go. Thank goodness it was payday recently.)

Research never ends…

Here is your triumphal moment of Zen:


About Gavin

I am a 32-year-old PhD student in Aberdeen, Scotland. I work in QC at an e-learning company. I'm originally Northern Irish, though I've lived here in Aberdeen for several years. I am, essentially, somebody who is very normal, yet to whom very strange things keep happening...
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