Saturday, August 28, 2010

Life of a Student Writer

Here we are once again, another school year has begun. Students all over the world are gearing up, excited to see their friends, and then immediately counting the number of days till next summer. Parents, on the other hand, are kindly waiting till their children are out the door to do the happy dance.

What does this do for a writer though? I just finished my first week at a new university. Exciting? Yeah. Tiring? YES. It’s all I can do to be writing this post instead of going limp on the couch. Plus it’s the first time I have to travel any distance to get to school. Add the travel time to the other obligations the day requires plus homework, studying, extra credit that you know you need, random life occurrences, and what’s that thing that most people do every day? Uh, oh that’s right, eating and sleeping. I forgot about those.

This is where I want to give parent/writers a big, virtual, gold star. Now, I’m not a parent but this is what I imagine a day might be like. Get kids up, get kids dressed, feed kids, make lunches, get kids to school, grocery shopping, changing diapers, coming home, clean house, get kids from school, take kids somewhere, bring them back, make sure homework is done, bathe them, stop fights, argue, hug, change, and put them to bed. Did I get everything? Probably not. Moms and Dads have a lot on their plates.

That being said, where do we put our writing time? It’s a little tough when something in our real life is constantly calling our attention and if we don’t time it right then something gets the short end of the stick. Too much attention to writing can cause school work to slip our minds. A late night means getting to class late and not being able to pay attention. I know I do that.

This is what I told myself about my schedule: Do things early. Simpler said than done, I know, but hear me out. If I can do my homework during my break between classes instead of waiting till I got home I’ll have the time when I get home to write. Study a little everyday instead of hardcore studying the week before the test. Cook meals ahead of time so all you have to do is pull things out of the fridge or the freezer and heat it up. Give it a try.

Have you tried this before? Did it give you more time? What do you give up for your writing time?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

What's your Chapter 'Comfort Zone'?

I recently finished the first edit of my novel (also known as its new working title Trouble in the Gene Pool. Woot!), and included in these edits was finding out where I wanted to break the pages into chapters. This may sound backwards to a lot of you. Maybe you outline the story with chapters before you start so you know where you want to end with each one or even if you don’t outline at all you may still have a feeling for what your chapters are once you get started. But before NaNoWriMo I never wrote a story long enough to need chapters, so this is new territory for me. I just wrote how I knew.

I don’t know if this is normal or not, (because most of the things I do aren’t), but I happened to have had a book from the library at the time so I counted the words on one page then counted the pages. By multiplying the number of words by the number of pages it gave me a general idea of how many words were in the chapter, which turned out to be around 2000-2500 I believe. (That’s how you know I like writing. It makes me do math and I don’t mind.) This book was a new Young Adult that I heard about in one of the library’s newsletters. Girl in the Arena by Lise Haines I think was the one, which was a good book. But I digress. I kept that in mind while I separated my words into sections, looking for that perfect spot to stop or leave a little suspense. I ended up around the 2500-3000 range a lot.

I realize that chapters are going to be different for every book. Books for younger kids may only have a couple pages per chapter and thicker young adult books could be 10-15 pages long. What’s average for you? Is there a certain amount of words or number of pages you go for as you’re writing? As a reader, do you ever think a chapter is too short or too long? What’s your chapter ‘bull’s eye’?