I want to share a tip with you which I have found has helped me with writing my first draft. I did this naturally, and upon conversations with other writers on their own writing processes I discovered that many people have the same issue. They are unsure how to finish a chapter or wonder how long their chapters need to be. I say, for the first draft who cares. My method is not to write in chapters during the first draft stage, because what you should be focusing on is your story and the sectioning off into chapters can be done in the editing phase.
Why You Shouldn't Write in Chapters
- Writing your first draft in chapters may cause you to censor yourself into writing to a certain word limit and/or page number which can make you skimp on the good stuff i.e. proper characterisation or dialogue.
- It can cause the perfectionist in you to come out and to critique all your work, and your novel may never be completed because you may go back to edit what you did in order to fulfil your chapter ideals.
- You will always be thinking about what is the best way to end the chapter instead of writing the natural course of the scene.
- Your idea may become disjointed in your own mind if you are viewing the story from chapter to chapter only.
- If you do it chapter by chapter, the task of completing your novel may become daunting and feel like an impossible task.
- Writing a novel is not a perfect science. Even if you are a perfect plotter, the story can change and it is impossible to plan out what every scene will be.
- It stifles your creativity to box yourself in a rigid regime of chapters.
What is a "Section"?
The dictionary meaning of a "section" is "One of a number of parts that can be used to make a whole". However, you may be thinking, Isn't that exactly what a chapter is? No, not to me - A "section" is a string of scenes that flow on from one another, that relates to a inciting issue or action and the after effects of that issue/action.
- For instance, (using my own book as an example):
Killian is fighting as a soldier in the war against Sol. They are loosing badly, and in one battle Killian is taken prisoner by the Solians who never take prisoners. The leader wants to retrieve Killian and so they sneak behind enemy lines to get him.... long story short, they get him, but the events trigger some strange occurrences which cause Killian to develop strange abilities. With his new powers, Killian leads his men to safety. A few months go by and they are back home, Killian is welcomed as a hero but his home is not quite right..... He takes position as his families head from his step brother by force and lord of the lands.
This is just one section, there is a lot of stuff happening before this and after this. However, you can see that this is a whole lot more than one chapter. To me, they run the same course on the same line of thought and the section after this is about what happens once he becomes lord.
How To Go About Writing "Sections"
- Generally, knowing what scenes go into which sections comes intuitively and by knowing your plot. If you have a look at my post on Plotting Like A Pantser, it explains how when I outline my novel I split it up into Beginning, Middle and End (again no chapters). From this I can discern what scenes go together and what issue or action flows on from one to the other.
- I write my sections in a word document together, but I keep them separate from the other segments. Once I have written all the various pieces of the puzzle, I put them together in one document.
- There is no rule to writing in a segment, and that is what makes it so much better than writing in chapters. You just write the scenes and let the plot flow from your fingers to the page.
- To indicate where one scene ends and another begins, you can either use _____ , *** or just leave a larger gap than usual.
- Writing sections in separate word documents will also help you down the track just in case your story changes from what it was originally (as it generally does). This will allow you to go on with your new train of thought without the gaps.
Other Things Worth Mentioning
- Your first draft is exactly that- a DRAFT. It does not have to be perfect and you should not expect it to be gold because it wont be.
- Do not worry about form too much or whether everything you need to talk about is in the manuscript. You can always go back during the editing process (once you finish the first draft) and put it in.
- Do not worry if you plot changes midway through or earlier. It happens. Do not go back and change everything to be in unison with your current idea. Just keep writing and fix it in round two of drafting.
I hope you have found this helpful and I wish you give this a try. I suggest this to my writer friends online who struggle to let the inner perfectionist go and those who have a hard time getting out the words. Let me know how you write, and whether or not you would try this!