Chapters are useless. They’re arbitrary divisions in a story that serve no purpose except to give readers a chance to put down the book and never come back. Unlike acts, scene sequences, scenes, beats, and all the other narrative units, chapters actually work against structure and meaning: you have to bend the book to make them work.
But they’re standard, so they stay. And I’m about to print out the first act which means I have to figure out where the chapter headings go so I put in transitions between the @#$%^&* chapters I don’t want in there anyway.
The first act is now 30,115 words long, a huge improvement from 41,000 words. I shifted a couple of scenes to Act Two, cut a lot more savagely, and dumped the investigations scenes completely and rewrote that section. Just over 30,000 words gives me room to add things later as I finish the book, and if I don’t, I just have a faster first act. Win/win.
And now I have to carve all that tight writing up with @#$%^&* chapters.
The first chapter was easy: The first two parallel scenes that end when Nick sees Nita for the first time; 6131 words, which is long, but it’s a first chapter, so I’m good with that. Plus it ends as Nita is walking toward Nick, so I’m pretty sure readers will turn the page.
The second chapter was also pretty organic: The scene sequence in the bar, ending when Nita leaves. 5888 words, which is good because each chapter should get shorter. This ending is a little iffier because it’s an ending, not a cliffhanger, but since I have faith that readers will want to know what both Nita and Nick are going to do next, I’m okay with this.
The third section is all right. It ends when Button shoots the bad guy, which is a good breaking point, and it runs 4687 words. I want my chapters between four and five thousand words until I hit Act Four, so this is ballpark, but it means that the next section starts with Button saying, “Are you all right?” to Nita.
Why is that a problem? It means that Chapter Four is the end of a scene–Mort showing up, going out to the porch, etc.–and then ends when Nita leaves the breakfast scene, now because she’s texted that the lieutenant wants to see her. There’s nothing organic about that pairing or particularly strong about that ending, but it’s 4403 words, and that’s close enough for this stage in the book. It’s gonna bother me, but since I know this act will change once I get to the end, I’m letting go for now.
Chapter 5 is Nita with the Lieutenant, Nick with the Mayor, Chloe with Nita, and Nick with Vinnie. I’m okay with this because they both hit the road in the next chapter, so this becomes the start of their day, before they leave home base (the police dept/the bar) and start their investigations. It’s 4513 words.
Chapter 6 is investigations (completely rewritten), ending with their crisis scenes: Nick in Hell seeing the resemblance and Nita at the motel opening the box (that’s new, too). It’s 4486 words.
Act Two now starts with the Max scene, which is actually a good place to start a new PoV since Acts are stories on their own, and Act Two starts a new story,, but I’m going to have mention Max more than the one time I have him in the first act now to establish him.
All in all, I’m much happier with this now, happy enough to do the paper edit and then go back to the rest of the book which is in pieces all over the place. Also I have to clean because this house is a hellhole and Krissie arrives tomorrow. YAY.
And now, to the printer..