When I was in high school, or maybe 8thgrade, I wrote my first novel.
It was entitled “Tangled Up In Me” and followed a 16 year old figure skater who was timid about ice skating competitions because of a bad experience and getting caught in semi-relationships with a pair of brothers, who she didn’t know were brothers and who didn’t know they were interested in the same girl, because she went by multiple names. And while this may sound like either a very interesting synopsis of a story or a pretty formulaic synopsis to any teen romance novel, it was my first complete work and I was proud of myself for completing it.
I still have the printed out copy of this manuscript among my belongings and the notations scribbled over the first few chapters from where I decided I would begin revising for my second draft and ultimately create the best version of the piece I could. Needless to say, those revisions never really took place, but that manuscript and the feeling of accomplishment that came from it still exists.
As a person who is always coming up with new ideas for a novel and has more than her share of started bits and pieces for stories, I find myself wondering what made that story (a rather amateur piece if I could say so) worthy enough of completion in comparison to the other pieces I have. I’m always wondering how I was able to finish that, a first draft of a manuscript, and barely complete another manuscript without either ditching it altogether or forgetting about it half way through.
I think my issue is that I like to sit down and write as much as I can of the story in one sitting than in multiple sittings. I hate leaving my work in an incomplete state because I couldn’t really hash it all out and get it on paper, right then and there. It’s the reason why I have so few short stories.
But after reading some novels now that don’t follow the tradition of proper chapter labeling, if there is any labeling or designation of a body of text within in it, I’ve begun rethinking the way I write and more so my ability to once again craft a novel and have another manuscript that I’m proud of myself for completing. And with recent conversations between me and my boyfriend, it has become more abundantly clear what kind of writer I am and what my writing style is.
For starters, I think I’ve been approaching novel writing all wrong.
My boyfriend pointed out, more so to help himself through the process than probably me, that chapters are nothing more than a short story. A novel nothing more than a continuation of a short story with the addition of additional short stories. All of them separate pieces that should be written and cared for as if individual stories. Stories that are allowed to have cliffhangers, because when it comes to writing, there are no real rules. And a short story is nothing more than a singular event or a singular focus. The entire premise focuses on one aspect and one aspect alone. One narrative. One idea. One overwhelming message that encompasses it all.
For so long I viewed novel writing as this difficult process of planning and re-planning and adjusting and readjusting until you got it right. Careful selection of where to put the pause that is one chapter to the next to increase the need for the reader to skim over the fact that they’ve started another chapter in the anticipation of knowing what happens next.
I’m not stating that each chapter (if I go the traditional route) should be a complete story within itself that leaves the reader completely satisfied or satisfied enough that there will be no urgency to necessarily continue reading in that moment, but I think taking the principles of short story writing, it’ll be a lot easier to craft chapters of a novel, then taking it all on as one bulk project in which while you are writing, you are deciding when you should stop to break for a new chapter.
So with that said, I finally think I’m ready to take on possible novel writing again.