Monday, 8 October 2012

WFTD: Structure

Work continues on the second draft of WFTD. One of the major things I’ve been looking at is the physical structure of the story and how it is presented to the reader. I originally structured WFTD into three parts, but that has now expanded to six. The question is: does it need to be divided into ‘parts’ at all? Well…yes and no.

You see, I’ll often break down a story into more manageable ‘chunks’ when I’m working on a draft in order to better plan my work schedule. Each part is saved into a separate file which I can then focus on independently. I prefer working like this rather than from a single, massive document. But WFTD wasn’t just split into parts because of my process, but because I saw the story as having three very distinct thematic acts. But some of the changes I’ve made - in particular to the chapter structure in the first part – means that’s not quite the case any more. The chapters are fairly short, especially compared to my last novel. I just hit chapter thirty seven and I’m barely into the third act. So I see the new split of six parts as the ‘real’ chapters of the story, simply broken down into many smaller pieces.

How and when to begin a chapter, or more importantly end a chapter, is one of the key things to get people to keep turning those pages. I don’t think pace is simply determined by the writing, but also by how the chapters are physically structured and presented. It obviously varies depending on the story and style but - too much, too fast and you can exhaust the reader. Breaking things down appropriately into bite size chunks can help keep the reader hooked, their attention never fading because every chapter is short and snappy.

As I said, this doesn’t work for every story. My last novel wasn’t broken into parts and the chapters were two or three times as long as those in WFTD. For now, I’ll stick with the six part structure until I complete this new draft. But once each piece is reintegrated into the whole, I’ll get a better idea of how the overall structure should work.

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