So, swallowing my pride a bit here, I'm going to share some of the story that started my writing journey, as it is. And then I'm going to talk about the mistakes I made, and what I've learned from them. Please be gentle.
We'll start with the average chapter size. This story has a total of nine chapters. It has a word count of 112k. The average chapter has over twelve thousand words, making that chapter roughly forty pages.
What I've learned: The chapter should be only as large as it needs to reveal the details important to the central theme of the chapter. For manageability, I now keep my chapters at around 2k, or roughly ten pages. If I can't show you the scene in ten pages, then I need to cut and tighten or divide and create two chapters if there are two scenes.
Here's the first excerpt:
The labor drug on for hours. Way before the Sola rose and now it was starting to set. Okay, we'll start with the obvious. Drug. Drug is a form of medication, dragged is an action. It was starting.The second sentence is a fragment and punctuation is missing completely. "Was" precedes an inactive clause. Words ending in "ing" are not active. A better verb would have been started. Not sure I can make this a good paragraph, but this is what I would do now. Her labor dragged on for hours. It started when the Sola rose, and continued while the star pinked the horizon as it set.
From the moment of conception she knew there was something special about the babies. It was something she could feel down deep in the depths of her soul. Cliche much? Inactive phrasing again. I'm also telling instead of showing here. Instead of saying she could feel it to the depths of her soul, (blech) I should be showing you. How does she know the babies are special? What things have led her to believe this? Every woman believes her child is special. My job as the author is to show you why, not tell you. Here I've failed miserably. A better solution would have been to show weird events that occured while she carried the babies, or signs from her gods. Okay, enough beating this dead horse. Moving on.
Her hair boasted a wealth of silky platinum and honey strands that seemed to make her face glow. She was tall and slender, with skin like cream and lush curves, giving her a divine appearance. Her face was oval shaped with full lips and large aqua colored eyes that shone with flashes of curiosity. They were expressive with thick full lashes, her best feature. Her appearance, except for her ratty clothes, was flawless. Her curse.
Here we have a cookie-cutter description of a perfect heroine, and there is adverb and adjective abuse. Whenever you see a modifier, you can always replace the verb or noun with something stronger. To make matters worse, I describe her as both slender and having lush curves. If I was beta reading this manuscript, I'd be banging my head into a desk. My solution. Cut the entire description and show what she looks like, revealing a little at as time as we go through the story. Do not do this. Do not describe your character in one paragraph, but show what she looks like through the reaction of the hero and other characters. One last thing. To make your characters human, someone the reader can relate to, for the love of God, give them flaws.
Here we're wordy and telling. Not to mention the word "look" echoes over, and over, and over again. The less words you can use to show the scene, get your point across, the better. What point am I trying to make here? Nothing here moves the story forward, or is important to the plot. This entire paragraph would have to go. Every word, every action you write, must move the story forward. If it doesn't, cut it. Also, note that when you see words like feel or felt and look or looked, you are almost always telling and not showing.
Okay, one last paragraph and this one is for you. Tell me what's wrong with it, and I'll pick a name from the commentors to win a tee-shirt, and yes this is one paragraph (actually half of it).
Helena was pissed. It all stemmed from the lack of sleep then the cold shower and now a surprise exam on death penalty cases. This day just got better and better. Well she was the one that had wanted Emili to let her hair down, look at the monster she had created. Who knew she could be such a slut? Come on how many times in a night can you do that before dropping dead? Apparently, all night.
Now that I've shown you the ugly side of learning to write, I hope you have a better understanding that good stories don't just happen. Read. Write. Get your hands on well written stories, and some really bad ones. Try to figure out what the author did that they might do better. Look at your own writing and understand nobody writes a perfect first draft. Revise, revise, revise. And if you have a first draft like my first story, stick it under the bed, and when you need a dose of humility, or you want to see what you've learned on your writing journey, pull it out.
Have a great weekend!
Don't forget to leave a comment to be entered to win a signed tee-shirt in either, MED/LRG/XLG or XXLG. Have fun!