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Writing to set parameters

 

19-2-2002
 
Writing works when limits are set
 
Having found that ‘setting limits’ helpful in terms of getting material written, working to 35 minute intervals and aiming for six to eight of these a day, I also want to set word count targets, both totals and sub-totals for chapters. So a kids books will come in at 1000 to 8000 words for example (which might be great for something like ‘Photobooth’ as each story is currently coming in at around 800 words). I find the notes I took on ‘First Men in the Moon’ – I think the chapter word count could be a useful guide for ‘JTW’.
 
Namely:
 
1 6,000 words
 
2 3,400 words
 
3 3,400 words
 
4 1,400 words
 
5 2,000 words
 
6 2,000 words
 
7 2,000 words
 
8 2,800 words
 
9 2,400 words
 
10 2,000 words
 
11 4,000 words
 
12 4,000 words
 
13 2,800 words
 
14 2,400 words
 
15 4,400 words
 
16 2,400 words
 
17 4,000 words
 
18 4,000 words
 
19 4,400 words
 
20 2,400 words
 
21 6,000 words
 
22 1,600 words
 
23 2,800 words
 
24 6,400 words
 
25 5,600 words
 
26 800 words
 
Total 84, 000 words
 
I offer this up as some of you writers out there who, like me, produce lengthy daily journal entries will look at this and think, ‘I could write that much in a month’. You could. And if you did it as well as you can online you may just come away with a novel.
 
‘The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook’
 
I check the details. I am reminded of something else here, knowing for whom I am writing is still a problem. Stories and novels are not like real life, they have to be much more sensitive to the needs of particular type of reader. I will need to separate anything erotic (or pornographic) to an appropriate adult book category. (I’d love to write something trashy like the ‘Emmanuel’ series – they kept me company in my mid-teens. I’d better add it to the ridiculously long list of thins to do).
 
Characterisation also necessitates gross simplification, again, a novel is not a journal. Only so much can be relived, in truth, were we defined as novels (as our choice of authors perhaps does in Diaryland) then we are each several characters in several disparate novels simultaneously.
 
The value of school work – long after the sell by date
 
Doing this sort of thing reminds me of school work, analysis through deconstruction of things like ‘Great Expectations’, ‘The Mayor of Casterbridge’ and ‘Hamlet’ – I’ve got my notes from school in files, rescued from my father’s house on the eve of his moving house – files thick with notes, quotes and essay on Hamlet, Henry IV, Pope, Thomas Hardy and others. History notes too, on British and European History from around 1400 to 1650. Some of it offers a useful insight, one of my first English essays on ‘The Mayor of Casterbridge’ I noticed the other day, asks, ‘What makes a good first chapter?’

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