300 pages?! Where I started…

Staring down a full-length project is like standing next to a pile of lumber and saying you’re going to build a house. It’s daunting to say the least. I knew I was shooting for about 300 pages, tops. Later 300 turned into 400 when I realized a) I had more to say, and b) the old rule goes “cut 20%.” This is where some might want to tuck tail and run, but when you break it down it’s really no 10,000 sq ft Tudor.

I think the single greatest thing I learned fairly early was:

Don’t start at the beginning.

Maybe it works for some people, or maybe this simple idea is apparent to everyone else.

I decided to start with what inspired me to write the story: the crisis. Ah, conflict! And we’re back to scene construction, my last blog.

Since I was writing scenes, I had the flexibility to jump around without leaving too many frayed edges. The scenes were contained by their goal, conflict, and outcome. I wrote these initial scenes as they came, and they landed anywhere from chapter 4 to chapter 24. I didn’t have to stress or bite my nails wondering how to fit them together, I just wrote. For a long long long time I just wrote. It was freeing, not having to write something I didn’t feel inspired to write. This produced a sizable chunk of work, giving me a puzzle I could start putting together. Next, I took my “chunk of work” to workshop.

Follow me on Twitter for the latest updates, melissa-henry.com launches soon!

Up next: Everything I Learned, I Learned at Workshop

Note: A dear writer friend of mine, who began around the same time I did, had gotten stuck in the doldrums of trying to write linearly, beginning at chapter one. Together we started flailing about through our narrative arc, picking up in the middle, heading towards the end, only to arrive at the beginning. Once we began to trust that it would all round out, it did just that. Our middles informed our beginnings and ends, sometimes you just don’t know it until you write it.

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