I’m a big lover of goals and targets. Maybe it’s because I was a teacher. Maybe it’s because I never really untethered myself from perpetual studenthood. But whatever the reason, I find setting myself a target is a big help when I sit down to write.
On Saturday I wanted to write a chapter and a half. And I managed it, hurrah! A chapter and a half doesn’t really sound like a lot, in my head. But 5180 words does. If I’d told myself I had to write 5000 words, I’d’ve flown into the night, laughing.
I like to think that if I achieve my ‘Graham-Target’ (1000 words a day, as set down in stone for me by the late Graham Joyce in one of our tutorials), I can have a biscuit. I usually aim for 3000 words a chapter, but I’m not religious about it. I mentioned the word count for the day on Twitter, and suddenly realised that my way of working in chapters (something I know a friend from my MA does as well), is not especially popular.
So, along came a highly scientific study to find out how people measure their writing. And here are the results:
@ldlapinski Hi – great idea. As per previous tweets, I write by scenes. I never know how many words I’ve written. (1/2)
— Jo Hogan (@joleHogan) April 27, 2015
— Rachael Lucas (@karamina) April 27, 2015
@ldlapinski For my daily work, I set word goals. For my latest WIP, I approached the story by scenes. Now to organize those into chapters.
— Sam Taylor (@jsamtaylor) April 27, 2015
@ldlapinski I like to work on a chapter till it’s finished. Though my chapters are just glorified scenes. And I don’t work chronologically.
— James Briar (@dr_briar) April 27, 2015
I love seeing writers’ individual styles. My own scene and chapter planning tends to work something like this:
Ch 1: J and K meet
Ch 2: J and K see the magical fish
Ch 3: J and K kiss
I usually have The One Big Event that needs (should!) take place in each chapter, though this is obviously subject to change. I don’t meticulously plan character’s emotions (though for STARFALL’s sequel I have made a lot of notes on how one relationship should change throughout the book, and how quickly), because I like to give them space to breathe. And I do, usually, work chronologically.
The one scene I wrote ‘out of time’ for STARFALL was one that I was bursting to write as it conveys so many feelings, and is a significant character development point. But when it came to inserting the scene into the story, it needed so much editing as my style had changed and the characters were not at the point I had anticipated them being.
As it works for me, I’ll keep on measuring my stories and progress by chapter, but it has been very interesting to see how everyone else works (and I might try this scene-goal thing out…).