Engineer’s Log, August 15th 2014: Turning a New Chapter

I’ve added about 400 words to The Lost Tomb of Omo since my last update. That isn’t too bad for three working days where the amount I time I can devote to writing is minimal… Plus an epic thunderstorm that disrupted one of those evenings. It also includes a fair amount of revision where I reworked, deleted and added things; something that doesn’t really reflect if you are judging by total word count alone.

Think of it this way: You have 1,000 words written. Then you cut out 500 words to make the piece stronger and write 600 new words for a total of 1,100 words when you are done. If you go by word counts alone, you only added 100 words to the total. That doesn’t seem like a lot, but in actuality you added 600 new words plus did revising on the existing material which takes considerable time and effort too. I keep that in mind whenever I start to feel down about my work in progress. I recommend a similar attitude to my fellow writers. Editing and revision are your allies and you must give them their proper due! It is anything but wasted time.

Another thing I discovered yesterday is that I’m not actually coming up on chapter four in Omo. After careful review and some of the above mentioned revision and editing, I now have nine chapters! Ten, if you count the prologue!

For some reason, I had gotten it into my mind that all of my chapters should have been of the same approximate length. Specifically I was thinking about 5,000 words each. Indeed, by that rule I would be four chapters deep. However the pacing of chapters should not be based on a mechanical rule or target. They need to flow and follow the rhythm of the story. By using chapter breaks properly, you can do things like shifting focus or narrative point of view far more smoothly than can mid-chapter. I had this happen in a couple of places in Omo so far, where I switched to another character’s point of view and then a flashback. The results just felt jarring and awkward to me, and I did a lot of thinking about how to fix it. Now that I have worked those two parts into their own chapters, everything flows much, much better!

Definition courtesy of
Definition courtesy of

A chapter can be a single paragraph, a single sentence. Even a single word! The most important thing is that the chapter breaks should follow the beat of the story and work with its flow, not constrain or fight it. The only hard consideration in regards to word count that you should give is to the reader: Most readers like to read to the end of a chapter and then decide if they will read more or not in that sitting. Yes, I know that bookmarks exist. But if your chapters are 10,000 words or more, your typical adult reader going along at 250 words a minute might get a little frustrated at you lack of pauses for them to take a break, go to bed or use the bathroom at a convenient point.

That’s all for today, it’s time for me to get writing! Take care dear reader, and be well!



2 thoughts on “Engineer’s Log, August 15th 2014: Turning a New Chapter

Add yours

  1. I say thank you for chapters. I remember reading Terry Pratchett, whose books don’t have chapters, and thinking “When can I take a break?” A book with out a chapters is like sitting down and watching an entire series all in one sitting. Enjoyable but exhausting! Awesome post Jason!


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