Writing on, and about, an island

The Single Best Thing I Did in Order to Finish My Book

In Books, Crime & Mystery Writer, Writing on March 2, 2012 at 11:46 am

Nothing is quite so daunting as a Word document that could, if printed out, paper over the Sistine Chapel. My finished crime novel (working title, Tinderbox) is such a document.

There are many long books out there, and I take my hat off to authors who can write so much and still keep my interest. Me, I was just happy to make it to the standard 60,000 words or so.

I think that’s because, as a writer, I have always leant towards roles that required me to write in small chunks, often: opinion columns for newspapers, ‘stock’ pages for magazines… Writing a novel has been an epic journey for me – not because of the total sum of the individual words, but because of the totality of the document. The mere thought of revising and editing it was making my head spin…

SO!

I took structural action.

I copied and pasted all 58 chapters (70,000 words) into separate documents. Voila!

Of course, it requires a close attention to continuity once you put the whole lot back together, but it’s so much easier to get enthused about polishing one page, than it is about a trillion pages… It’s the economic snowflake method, applied to both the writing and editing stages.

It makes sense to me, not just in terms of the writing of a book, but also in terms of reading the final product (yours or someone else’s). I have always preferred small bites of chapters in novels – especially crime/mystery books – as it heightens the suspense. Some of my chapters are only 250 words long.

In writing a book, it’s essential to inject ‘light and dark’, a chapter/story arc – and mixing up chapter lengths is one way to do this. Keep the reader on their toes…

[PS: Apologies to everyone who received this 57 or so times… Thanks, WordPress!]

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