One Foot – or Chapter – at a Time

Last year, about this time, I ventured into the world of Wattpad and Booksie. Not really sure what I was getting into, I went about publishing chapters of stories that really didn’t fit an easy market. One was a little too short to be a fully novel, the other was a genre I’m not even sure how to describe. As time went on, I joined in on competitions. That was how I found the Open Novella Contest on Wattpad, or ONC for short. And that has been a game changer.

And boy can they be rough

There are so many different levels of being a would-be writer that the most important, the writing part, can get lost in the shuffle. Last March, I wrote the first draft of Nevermore, and found a character who was unstoppable – she stayed with me even when I wasn’t writing, and she was a force of nature when I was. However, I also came upon some writing advice for ONC that went something like this: the judges will only read to a certain point, so make sure your story arc is established by then. This was incredibly helpful, as even when given a shorter writing task, I tend to go long. (My senior research paper was limited to a certain word count or no more than 13 pages. I shrunk my font down by 0.5 to make it look the right size and font, but also to squeak into the limit.)

So, long story short, Lia’s story was completed within the limit of 40,000 words (I think she was initially around 36,000). When NaNoWriMo came along in November, I knew there were entire secondary story lines I’d left out in the initial telling that would help turn Nevermore into a full novel. And sure enough, it did. Now sitting around 70,000 with the last third still to be expanded upon, I had somehow stumbled upon a working plan for future drafts.

In the midst of all this, I also watched The Man Who Invented Christmas, and that really got me thinking. Back in a time when serialized fiction was the rage, full stories that have lasted through the ages were created one small chapter at a time. Now I’m by no means comparing myself to Dickens, but the idea of re-creating small batch stories really stuck with me. And based on how well Nevermore worked in transitioning from novella to novel, I’ve decided that this method just might work. It just might work for those first drafts that need to be written while the ideas are fresh, but to save on some of the intricacies. Second drafts are, after all, where we start to really do our work. All a first draft has to be is written. And that’s what this marvelous plan does. It helps me bite of manageable pieces to chew one at a time, all while getting enough of the story down to know where I want to go on the second run. And all while offering enough time in the day to complete other tasks.

Maybe this idea might work for you – it might help balance wanting to write with a full time job, full time family, or whatever else life decides to throw at you. I’m going to do some digging in the tried and true methods, and I’ll share them as I go. But in the meantime, it’s food for thought to our starving artist souls if nothing more.

Until next time –


Published by L.E. Gibler

Writer, rider, and future crazy cat lady

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