Aidan back on Thursday. Baby due one month from now. I am now either 1/3 or 1/4 of the way through this book. Two different measurements, John? Have you taken leave of your senses? Are you not defying ALL LAWS OF GOD AND MAN?!
Allow me to explain. I’ve shot for 40 ‘chapters’ (in heavy inverted commas; “important and regular plot beats” doesn’t really cut it, but it’s the same thing) and a rough final length of 60k words. Not everyone’s this anal, but I need structure or else I tend to piss everything against a wall, story-wise.
I have ‘written’ the first 14 of those chapters, which is the 1/3 mark. But John, you handsome devil, surely that means you’re also around 21k words! Not so, my saucy stranger. You see, I skip stuff. More or less.
There’s an old saw in writing: “You can’t edit an blank page.” And it’s true, to a point. But I’m big enough and ugly enough nowawadays to realise as I write, or even before I write, a scene, or a block of dialogue, or a grocery list, that what I’m about to do or what I am doing is going to be shit. Unremittingly awful balls that I’ll pretty much have to rewrite from scratch in the editing process. I’m not in the mood, I don’t have a clear fix on what’s happening, whatever. I could write any old toss and edit it in later, but that sounds like a lot of work to me. So I skip it and leave a note to self in place to come back to later when I do know what I’m doing, like so:
[WHAT THE LIVING FUCK IS THE POINT OF THIS CONVERSATION? THERE’S GOT TO BE ONE AND IT SHOULD BE AWESOME.]
Or, the more polite:
[DIALOGUE IN THIS CHAPTER IS VERY FLAT, AND THERE’S NO GREAT SENSE OF URGENCY IN THE LATER PART. WE NEED TO KEEP IT CLIPPING ALONG, BUT AT THE SAME TIME WE ALSO NEED SOME INITIAL ‘GETTING TO KNOW YOU’…
Both genuine examples. So, I’m 14 chapters in, but only about 14k words. That’s a 33% skip rate right there. But so long as it doesn’t get too much - and it shouldn’t; most of these particular ones are scenes where I know what needs to be in, but can’t find suitably awesome phrasing and really need to crack on - that’s not a problem. It would all have had to be hacked to bits later. So the chapter count standard of length measurement (easy, tiger!) is the one I find most useful.
And not just because it makes me seem longer than I am. (Oooooh!)