So I finished my first draft last week. When I first finished it, I thought, "Yay! Awesome." Then a few days went by, and I swung around to, "Awful. Sucks." Funny how that works.
In the meantime, I've been circulating it around to readers to collect some opinions, including one shiny new reader who will most likely be getting a fruit basket from me this Christmas (if you're reading this, you know who you are ... and thanks). Anyway, she pointed out something that got me thinking: all of my chapters feel like "short stories" because each chapter is approximately 1,000 words, with a discrete beginning, middle and end. The result is somewhat choppy, with a rise and fall to each chapter that doesn't always suit the emotional content of the story.
It really got me thinking.
When I'm drafting, I write every day pretty much. And I write fast. I do about 1,000 words a day. That seems to be the amount that comes naturally, partly as a result of being a journalist and having to write newspaper and magazine stories to fit. At the end of 1,000 words, I start to feel my concentration slip, or I get hungry or itchy or whatever, so I end the chapter. Thus, each chapter roughly equals one day's output.
As soon as she pointed this out, it was like a lightbulb went off. Duh. The basic structure of the book reflects my writing schedule, not the pace of the story. As a result, the flow is uneven, and the emotional timbre swings around with the rise and fall of each chapter. It's like sampling a song 65 times and saying the song is whole.
There was a valuable lesson in here for me, actually: as ridiculously obvious as it probably sounds, you have to be careful not to stand in the way of your own story. Like, for example, it's highly unlikely that chapters naturally conform to one day's output ... To go one step further, if you're angry, watch out that it doesn't bleed into the story. Or don't write half a book drunk and the other half sober (either go all in, or lay off the bottle until you finish). The actual writer is supposed to be INVISIBLE in the story.
I was going to say I don't know how on Earth this is really possible. I mean, we're not robots. But then I realized: that's what rewrites are for. Ugh.