Hello all! I’m coming to you tonight with a very spoooooky ramble + progress update. Well, maybe not THAT spooky, but it’s Halloween, and I haven’t done anything else to celebrate this year. So…BOOO!
There! With that out of the way, let’s hop right into the progress update on Volume 4. As of tonight, I’ve crossed the 142,000 word mark. That mostly tracks with the typical speed I’ve come to expect from myself lately; we’re about 1.5 months out from my last update, and about 30K words farther in. If I have a particularly good writing session tomorrow, I should finish off a pivotal scene that will finally lead Lux and company to some well deserved R&R. Maybe this time, it’ll last a while for them! Probably not. (Author’s Note: Definitely not.)
The ending of my current chapter is also the inspiration for my ramble tonight: What IS a chapter, really? I’ll assume we all know the literal definition of a chapter and spare you the Merriam-Webster quote, but it’s been a question sitting at the front of my mind lately. How do I use chapters?
The answer to that question has changed pretty drastically over the course of the series. In Volume 1, before I had any plans to publish the work, chapters were concrete dividers of a specific length encompassing a single idea/scene. I knew how long I wanted the book to be in total, and I knew how long I wanted my chapters to be: around 80,000 words total and about 6,000 words per chapter. It was somewhat comforting to have those guidelines set up beforehand, with my work clearly divided into sections that seemed more attainable than just saying “write a book”. I’d finish one idea. Check. Start up another chapter, round out the next idea. Check.
I didn’t move into Volume 2 with the intent to change that formula, but the formula changed all the same. The book was about 50,000 words longer than the first while simultaneously being two chapters shorter. I was less concerned with whether or not I’d finish the project as a whole (by that time, I knew I was committed for the long haul), so I didn’t need those firm guidelines from the first book to motivate me. Honestly, I think it really helped to improve my pacing and writing style in general. Ideas weren’t segmented and self contained anymore; every idea could be as elastic as necessary to be served justice. It became pretty apparent that things had changed when I had to start renaming chapters multiple times: I’d give it the name I thought it should have when I started, but by the time I wrote my way to the end, that single concept didn’t feel right anymore. I had stopped naming chapters in advance by the end of the rough draft, choosing instead to name what I had written after it was already finished.
Volume 3 threw moderation straight out the window. Some more action-filled chapters stretched upwards of 10,000-11,000 words, but it just felt right to leave them that way. Sure, I could’ve split all of those longer chapters into two pieces and doubled my Table of Contents, but what’s the point? Those larger ideas contained inside the chapters deserved to be together; I’d rather let the setup run straight into the action and push the chapter up to 11,000 words instead of splitting it up and killing the pacing. That flow from scene to scene feels much more important to me now than it did before.
“But Adam!” I can hear you yelling at your monitor as I type this. “Why are you rambling about this in the first place?” Thank you for asking! I’m bringing it up now because the WIP chapters for Volume 4 have once again increased in size. Take for example “Chapter 12: Carriage Ride,” which currently sits just a few dozen words short of 15,000 words. That’s very long for a single chapter, and yet, I don’t feel inclined to do anything to change it. I like it that way.
It’s a chapter that encompasses, you may have guessed it, a carriage ride. Could I have split it up into two chapters? Sure. But then I’d have two chapters of a carriage ride, back to back. That separation gives me a subconscious feeling that we aren’t going anywhere. “What, we’re still on the carriage? The entire last chapter was about that!” Your brain is going to compare the two pieces of the event instead of remembering it as the one, united event that it actually is. The chapter of setup will be boring compared to the chapter of action; things are obviously happening the entire time, but letting dialogue flow into exposition into combat into dialogue, rising action into climax into falling action, is so much more satisfying to me. You feel like you’ve really accomplished something by the end. “Wow, that was one HELL of a carriage ride.”
I could go into more details and more examples, but I’d rather avoid belaboring the point. TL;DR, my chapters have gotten WAY longer over the course of my books, and I like it that way. I think too many chapters makes a book feel choppy, even if that means my chapters by comparison feel “too long”. But, to the rare half-dozen of you that read all the way through this ramble, I’d like to pose a question: how do YOU feel about chapters? Do you think they can be too long? Too short? Does it matter at all? I’d love to hear some reader perspective on it!
With that said, I’ll let you get back to your horror movies and your candy binges. I know it might feel like Restart Again has disappeared sometimes, but I’m always working on it, whether or not I talk about it on here, Twitter, or elsewhere. I’m still targeting December 31st, 2021 as the date I’ll have my rough draft completed; it’s ambitious at this point, but I think I can do it. Until then, stay safe out there, and as always, thanks for reading!