Week 86

86 I've worked so hard on plotting and getting the general thrust of the story out, that when it comes to the detail I wonder if I could pay someone else to write it for me.

I have a detailed plan of the plot on my wall, a line rising steadily along one whole length of the room, with scenes in post-it notes along it.

This is where it gets stomach churning. I have to write that?

I tested the plot on my wall by starting to outline each scene - who's in it, what they're up, what happens. Getting the balance right between notes and filling out every detail is important: If you're not careful you can write the whole thing then and there, in an outline template. I want to keep it just loose enough that there's still a way to go when it comes to writing, that it's still fresh and exciting.

Then comes grouping into chapters. To be honest, chapters weren't that important to me when writing the first draft, beyond providing a break in a scene or a pause. They didn't seem important, until I realised how much I preferred reading when I could fit in chapters in my bus to work, or between tasks. As we all know, the chance to curl up and read a book for an hour or two doesn't come about very often.

Then Amazon's recent foray into serialisation made me think about chunking up a story, and how really, these parts are often a story in and of themselves - with a beginning and a middle and a (cliffhanger) end.

There's more to chapters than I thought. This lecture by Catherine Brown at Oxford University goes into startling depth about them. She points out that they work as resting places - "of great help to the reader and the carver", says Henry Fielding at the start of Book II of Joseph Andrews, likening a writer to a butcher of meat - or indicators that let you relocate a passage in a book (just as films are "novelised" when they are made available on DVD, split into chapters).

Chapters work as boundaries, reminding you that what you are experiencing is not life but art. They also offer an opportunity for a change in tone. No breaks at all - step forward The Waves - are off-putting.

So this week I outlined scenes in the first part of my book, and grouped them into appropriate chapters, with an eye on momentum as well as length.

Word count this week: 0 First draft: 128,661