Stepping into the forest of my mind

Stepping into the forest of my mind
Just as every journey begins with a first step, every story begins with the first word.

Monday, May 27, 2013

What to Write in Those Confounded Chapters

What to say; what to say...
What’s your method for filling your chapters with words?  I begin with my outline topics for each chapter.  I do a lot of staring at the stupid blip blinking on that blasted blank white page.  Then I force myself to start elaborating on the topics.  When I can’t think of anything else to say about a specific topic, I move to the next topic and start babbling about it.  And back and forth I go. 

The beauty of the computer is that you can jump around scenes or even thoughts in any particular chapter.  You can just click where you want to pick up the topic and start typing.  Stop and then start somewhere else.  And of course you can always go back to modify what you have written.  Once I finish a writing session, I mark any section I’m working on with “*** Start” in red and next time I work on the manuscript, use the Find key to locate it within the document.

            How long should chapters be?  Is there a standard length?  In memoir you don’t want chapters too short.  The reader might think:  “no substance,” too long and “you lost me.”  It is important to write clearly and offer insight to any actions or anecdotes.  

I have a lot to talk about trying to master French in five easy [??] semesters, what with writing French blogs, presentations, videos, and research papers.  [I still don’t have a firm grasp of the language, but don’t tell Penn.]  My problem is that 10,000 words is too long for a chapter, so I need to break it up.  But where?

Perhaps the chapter should divide between community college courses and university level courses.  The advanced projects above came into play at the University of Pennsylvania.  Maybe the break should come after the community college courses and the entrance exam to be placed into the university level courses and then the second French chapter could be how I survived learning French at Penn.  What do you think?  The important thing to remember about any chapter is that it contains substance and moves the plot forward.

            I have 59,624 words and one more chapter to write before I have a complete first draft, and only two weeks to do it in.  Then the class is over and my first draft should be complete.  It will be close.  Wish me luck!