Late this week, due to illness. Last week I worked on my story. As much as a first draft is experimental, mine was beginning to resemble a bunch of asynchronous notes and additions and tangents, and not a draft at all.
So (for the first time) I started to think carefully about chapters. How many would there be (roughly). What would happen in each. I had avoided establishing even the most basic structures of a novel -the chunks it's split into - thus far, as I worried I would become too preoccupied with the ebb and flow of each, rather than that of the whole story. It also meant locking down how the two stories, past and present, worked together. And that's hard.
So I avoided it. I wrote "scenes" instead, but novels do not benefit from the momentary shift of blackouts, the pace of scene changes, and they give away too much with words. There comes a point where you must ask: where is this all leading? Why this, now? I find it hard to write without it (though I know some don't).
At the same time, a few people asked me those tricky questions: how's your novel going? I've publicised my intention to write one here for long enough, so I can't begrudge them that one. But then: what's it about?
I have a one-liner, but that doesn't tell you anything. It's a tagline at most (yeah, I've imagined it on the fly cover of a book, I don't mind admitting it - even the blurb on a film poster, if you must know).
So I set to work braiding my two stories together, a card per chapter. For some reason, I had not considered them so closely together. For every memory, there must be a context in the present day, and ever current event must fuel those memories further. It's the engine of my story.
As I created cards and scribbled the scenes and lines of dialogue I'd written as notes only beforehand, the story started to stir, and move, like iron filings after a magnet.
I now have 19 cards in five rows from left to right on my story board, each representing a chapter, though that's not rigid. I expect some chapters will grow, diminish and break into two or three over time.
I can add scribbles and post-it notes, photos even, to each card if I think of more ideas, and then when it's the chapter's turn in the draft, I take down its card and read.
So now I approach each chapter like I used to start exam essays: study the premise (the question, synopsis, whatever), make notes for a few minutes, then start writing.
Word count this week: 1,752 Total word count: 97,728 First draft: 87,712
PS. Do you remember Wooly Willy?? I hadn't thought about him for 25 years until writing this post...