What If Every Chapter Asks a Question?
Another collaborative novel planning session in the books, this one with pimento cheese (very helpful for brainstorming), the Northern Spy (RIP) kale salad, and brownies. If you are going to do a collaborative writing project, I highly recommend partnering with someone who is an excellent baker.
This session was devoted to breaking more story, but we began by going over the chapters we’ve already got. Some of them feel super incomplete to me, and while I don’t want to get hung up on that or start trying to revise before we’ve got a full draft, I do want to figure out how to make the next chapters feel more well-rounded.
I think part of the challenge is that we’ve got three third-person perspectives, and the story takes place over a whole summer, so about a week of novel time passes between any two touchpoints with a particular character. This is very different from any other novel I’ve worked on — two were first-person narrators and the other had four perspectives but it took place over the course of eight hours, so each switch to the next perspective would pick up in time where the last perspective left off.
Structuring this project as we have has led me to believe that each chapter needs to have its own small character arc. It’s not enough to have story beats that advance the plot; the characters must be faced with choices and make decisions that reveal who they are and what they believe and what they want. Each chapter must ask a question, and the answers to these questions must be interesting enough — or raise enough new questions — that the reader is willing to hang on a week to see what comes next.
Anna went along with my hunch that these questions would prove helpful. Will they actually? It remains to be seen. In any case, we talked them out for the first ten chapters, roughly the first quarter of the novel.
We got stuck on chapter eleven, and we had to call it quits anyway. But I think this will give me enough to work with while writing this week to see if it’s useful.