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I wrote Chapter 4 today, the rough version. 3,750 words. Only 2500-3000 will make the final cut. Why are my chapters so short? Because I am fulfilling the request of one my biggest supporters and best friends (she writes the blog I follow called Daily Devotionals) who as a busy Mom only has time to read 10-15 pages of a book before conking out for the night. She prefers books that let her finish a chapter in that time span. As at least one guaranteed reader, her wish is my command.
From an e-reading perspective, I have mixed feelings about short chapters. In an HTML setting (which no one should read my books in), it's a real pain to have to frequently scroll back up and click the "next section" link. Although, this is mostly a problem in fan fiction. In an e-reader, it doesn't really matter how long or short the chapters are.
I am struggling with my narrative. First, my biggest problem is when I write, writing narrative bores me. That's not a good sign for my readers! Second, I make the most mistakes in writing narrative. I have to really watch my tenses, that I don't jump into too many heads. And I am so sick of writing "smiled, laughed." I am trying to capture character's emotions, but as a writer you feel like how many times can I talk about the eyes? Eyes this. Eyes that. I don't want that to be my crutch. Here is one bit I wrote today I kinda like:
“You aren't angry about cutting your trip short?”
Johnathan laughed. “Hell no. I spend most of the day alone. I can't stand Buck's manners or company. The Louvre is still in one piece and Versailles is ostentatious. The most famous temporary structure in the world still stands, and Sainte-Chapelle's windows are singing the gospel.”
And this fight is VERY promising in its roughest form:
“You could have backed me up. You didn't have to come charging in here and take over.” Eric challenged Johnathan with every fiber of his body. Johnathan had never seen Eric this angry, but instead of making him worried, it screamed childishness.
“Grow up.” Johnathan returned to memorizing the schematic so he could take any question in fifteen minutes when the big bosses at Hedis would get on the phone.
“Is this about last weekend? I got your message. I thought you were having a great time, not my fault she was ugly in the morning.”
“No, this isn't about last weekend. It's about—no, it is about last weekend. What the hell, Eric? You take off with a limo and can't be reached for two days? And this–” Johnathan held up the Hedis proposal–“What was this garbage? I warned you. I warned you this wasn't a time to play mad scientist.”
Eric looked down at the floor and Johnathan's custom rug. His office was more of a disaster area, with Red Bull stains and crumbs customizing his carpet. “It was supposed to always be about playing mad scientist,” he said quietly, but loud enough for Johnathan to hear.
Jonathan sighed. They both had big dreams in college and grad school. He was getting the business degree and Eric was specializing in micro-electronics. Together, they were going to design and patent a brand new world.
“There is too much risk in the patent world. I never have an issue with your side projects, but as a company, we have people counting on us for a paycheck. You and me included.” Johnathan hated playing Eric's boss, but he owned 34% of the company, nudging him slightly ahead of the other two. It was only fair, his inheritance started the company. Years later, he wasn't sure the dynamic was still healthy.
“Side projects. Why can't we do both? Why do we have to be whores to these people who are just going to use our ideas to kill more people with greater efficiency?”
“That's not fair. Alex goes to great lengths to make sure any defense contracts we work on are defensive weapons, not offensive. We all feel strongly about that.”
“Now who needs to grow up? Come on!” Eric snatched the folder from Johnathan's hand and recited the project scope. “The “Bluebird” needs to retrieve packages up to one meter in any dimension and up to 22.7 kg in weight. Providing this important functionality can allow troops and aid workers to obtain supplies in high-combat areas with minimal risk to human life.”
Eric tossed the folder back into Johnathan's lap. He leaned over his desk and hissed the question he hoped Johnathan wasn't really too naive to think about. “How long do you really think it's going to take them to use the Bluebird's robotic arm to set explosives, handle bioweapons, or even tactical nukes?”
Eric shoved himself off Johnathan's desk and left him with five minutes to get to the conference call.
Don't get me wrong, I'm showing off the raw material I produced today. Both of those sections will go through a gauntlet of edits before pasting it into my final layout. For example, I need to shorten Eric's last question so it is more of a punch. I think I'm going to take out set explosives. Bioweapons and tactical nukes are scarier and better imagery than explosives. We already have robots that do that.
I did do a cool POV shift in my chapter. The first part is from Alex's POV, because Johnathan isn't there. He's in France. I also was surprised at an organic scene (what I call it when I didn't plan it but the characters got in there and did stuff) of Alex picking up Johnathan at the airport. There's one line I love, but I need to revisit. When Johnathan steps off the plane, instead of saying that boring piece of narrative, I wrote "The next afternoon, Johnathan followed his fellow time-travelers in the march to baggage claim." (Don't worry, for people who have never flown internationally and know how much this sucks, I have him change his watch to home time. On a plane for twelve hours, but it was only six hours later from when he boarded.). Anyway, once Johnathan is back in the states, the POV shifts back to him. This is natural, and I don't think will jar the reader at all, plus there is a line of white space between the phone conversation calling Johnathan home and him being home.
The reason I think this scene happens organically is because one of my cold readers requested to see more of Alex falling in love with Johnathan. While I don't quite feel comfortable jumping into her head (not because I don't think I could, I am the writer, I'm in every character's head) because it feels like a cheap narrator trick. I want to SHOW her falling in love, what does a woman falling in love look like to the outside observer without the benefit of internal monologue? O.o.O. That's a tough writing problem to solve. Anyway, her just showing up at the airport to get him, ordering his favorite food to be delivered, and driving him home I think demonstrates what we women DO when we like a guy. We invade his life. Thoughts on that?
"Imperfect Timing" arriving Fall 2011. Johnathan Michaels, a robotics engineer, jeopardizes his engagement with his business partner when a previous one-night stand surfaces, carrying his child.