I finished chapter 11 this weekend. It’s close to 5000 words long. I had some problems with this chapter. The characters kept wanting to break away, escape. I finally figured out what I needed to do. At the end of the chapter I gave the characters some hope. I’d beaten them down so hard, they needed a little something.
I took some time for plotting the next couple of chapters. I needed to figure out what I was doing next. I’ve written about 900 words of chapter 12. I needed a new subplot — I figured out something wonderful and torturous to do to my characters.
I started playing with yWriter. It’s free software. It’s a tool for keeping track of your characters, scenes, items, etc. It’s not for me — I have my own systems for keeping track of all of this. But someone else might be interested in it.
yWriter breaks everything down scene by scene. One of the things it allows you to do is to categorize each scene as either “Action” or “Reaction”. For action, it gives three properties — goal, conflict and outcome. For reaction, it’s reaction, dilemma and choice.
I looked at the first few chapters of the new novel. I categorize chapters by “Talking” vs. “Action”. I have a fairly limited definition of action — basically are the characters doing things like killing creatures or running for their lives. I try to have a good mix of action and talking chapters.
Action vs. reaction doesn’t really work for me. For example, the prologue of the new novel is very much an action chapter. The first chapter, though, I mark as a talking chapter. It doesn’t have what I would define as action, and it isn’t reaction. This chapter serves a couple of purposes — for one, it reminds the reader of what happened in novel number one. But it is primarily a talking chapter — the main character has to tell his parents what happened to him. It isn’t a boring chapter by any stretch of the imagination, even though for they most part they’re just talking (sometimes they are yelling): the son has to tell his religious parents that not only has he killed a god, he also killed his sister. It packs quite an emotional punch. I guess it would be an action chapter by yWriter standards, because the POV character has a goal, conflict, as well as resolution.
At this point, where I am in writing the second novel, it doesn’t make sense for me to go through all the chapters, and all the scenes in all the chapters, and figure out the point of them. I’m still figuring out what this novel is about, still meandering with it. But later, maybe during the next rewrite when I make this novel not so broken and wandering, I may go through scene by scene to make sure that they’re all working hard. I have a gut feel for this sort of thing, but a little more structure probably wouldn’t be a bad thing.