Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Pages System

The seventh post in my "Writing a Novel Series", which details my experience writing 151, is about something most authors wouldn't dare to think about before beginning to write their story: page numbers!

Yup, page numbers. It was the number one thing on my mind once I had plotted out the scenes of the story. How long should this thing be? How many words do I need to write? How long should each scene be, each Act, each Part, the novel in its entirety?

Many writers wouldn't worry about these questions, and would just write to their heart's content, happy to let the story develop on its own. I'm not one of them. To me, a good story maintains a solid flow and good pacing—it should move along at a solid clip, and keep the reader interested in what was happening. I wanted to avoid long, drawn out scenes that simply served to bore the reader rather then telling them the story that they actually want to read.

The length of each scene was also important to me, especially as it began to become clear that each of the scene cards would make up one short chapter in the novel. In order to maintain good pacing, I wanted each chapter (or scene) to be roughly the same length. But how long should each chapter be?

To determine this, I pulled out my calculator and worked out a Pages System. After a bit of research, I figured out that 90,000 words would be a good target to aim for. Then, I divided that number between the total number of scenes, or chapters, in the novel—50 in total. Through that, I determined that each chapter would be just under 2,000 words in total, or 7 pages double-spaced. This would thus be my rule of thumb—each chapter would be 7 concise pages of text.

Now that I had each of the scenes and their lengths set, it was time to finally write! Keep in mind that although a lot of planning and structure fed into the development of 151, I was determined to use these resources as a guide, not a rule. As I found out, scenes would change, new characters would be added, threads would be eliminated, and much of the plan would change regardless. But that's what writing's all about!