Chapter Obssession

I’ve noticed a strange trend in modern culture, or at least in online reading culture. My book “Dishonor” is 71,000 words, and while that is not the size of a monster Fantasy book, it is a fairly decent sized story. It is about the size of many Young Adult Self Published novels out there, which is why I ended book one around this length. I also ready that having a sequel was the best way to get your name out there more, so I broke down “Dishonor” into two books.

“Dishonor” is only 14 chapters. I actually wrote it without chapters. I divided it up into chapters after I finished by what felt like the most logical sections.

My most common comment on “Dishonor” is: “Its really short at 14 chapters”. My reaction is huh?

What I want to know is why does fourteen chapters make a book short? Is there something out there that says, “Your book is under twenty chapters, therefore it is a novella.”

I broke the story up in a way that felt logical. Some of the chapters are almost 10,000 words long. Some are somewhere between 2,000 to 4,000 words long.

Maybe this comment was simply made because my story is a quick easy read. I have no idea.

What I really want to know is why are people so obsessed with chapter count when chapters are such and arbitrary thing?

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Writing Fun – A story about “Dishonored”

I recently started a new job which is giving me more time to write. As I was working on “Honored” chapter 5, I realized that between “Dishonor” and “Honored” I have passed 100,000 words.

Liv’s story has gone quite far from the early world I first envisioned as a senior in high school. In the original envisioning of the story, she lived in a slum where the Dishonored were kept (The Dishonored caste was inspired by the lowest caste in the Indian caste system). The guards were simply stationed around the edges of the slum and the dregs of society were thrown in there.

As I built up the city, I realized there were a couple problems with this model. Number one was that this city was going to have to be huge to provide for the people living in it. Space and supplies would be to valuable to allow people to just live as a useless part of the cog. In this society I saw it as more likely that these people would just be killed off rather than taking up space which wouldn’t work well for my story because then Liv would be dead and no story.

I had and epiphany and realized that the Dishonored’s existence could be justified if they had a job, but of course, people wouldn’t want the Dishonored just roaming the city. To these people that would be like allowing convicted felons to roam among them.

This made me think, “Well, if people consider them the same as felons, what if they live like felons?”

From here the slum became a prison. But this prison was for people that everyone hated and looked down on. This prison was a place where all the people were just a broken leg away from being killed for taking up resources and space.

Around this time in the planning process of the story I was looking at traveling to Cambodia and Thailand. One of the things that I was going to do was to see a torture prison from the Khmer Rouge regime. This influenced me into deciding to reflect the torture prisons from genocides.

The prison for the Dishonored in my book takes a little from the Holocaust of World War II and a little from the torture prison in Phnom Penh in Cambodia. I will stress that in no way is the prison of Dishonor anywhere near as bad as these prisons.

At one point a reviewer told me that the over abundance of gratuitous violence was grating and angsty and I should tone down the violence. I tried to keep the violence down while keeping it real. Torture prisons are ugly horrible places. The small stories of violence and personal humiliation are nothing like those of the torture prison in Phnom Pehn. I wanted to try and make the violence senseless and horrible, like these places.

After some thought and advice from my editor about the readers and age I was writing for, I reworked the violence so that each moment of violence had a point and was better sewn onto the story.

This version of the treatment of the Dishonored is what you will read in my most current version of the story.

Dishonor is free to read on inkitt.com right now:

https://www.inkitt.com/stories/scifi/28123?ref=a_dad93882-db0d-4a49-8c0b-3f3bc078013f

 

Current Project

I am still working on Honored (do not be afraid, the sequel will come out), but I am taking a break to rewrite, and continue a story that I started when I was 13 stuck in an office chair after coming off of a horse. This story  “Life Without Memory”. The original plan was for a single novel that told the struggles of a girl who wakes up in a jail cell without any memory of her life before the jail cell. I also wanted to try something different, and wrote it in a style I called “First Second person mix”.

The rewrite starts with this same premise also, and follows the same basic story line as what I wrote back in 2007/2008. I added more depth to the characters and fleshed out the perspective to create an interesting tone for the story. The main thing I changed is that I am writing the story as a serial story instead of a standalone novel. This means that it is a series of novellas. I decided to write it with shorter chapters and arcs so that I could clearly define each stage of the story and build the story in a way that I felt better supports the changing tone of each section.

I know some people think that serial stories are simply a way for an author to drag more money out of a story, but that is not my goal. I plan on publishing most of the novellas as free stories. Currently, I have finished the first story of the series, and I am working on the second story, “Memory’s Madness”. I am also including a small, unedited, snippet from “Life Without Memory”.

CHAPTER 1: Jail Girl

You know those mornings where you can’t remember anything? Well that was this morning. I can’t remember the morning before, or in fact, any morning in my life. It is gone. Annihilated. I know that word fits, but I don’t remember anything about that word.

I know things though. I know that in ten minutes a bowl of porridge will come through a little slot in the door of my cell. For that matter, I know I am in a cell, and that I have lived in a cell my whole life. But what life is that? I try, searching for the memories behind this knowledge, but nothing comes to me.

Well, if that door is going to open, and I am going to get food, I need to be near the door. I roll myself off of the mattress I am lying and crawl toward the door.

The entire door is shoved open, narrowly missing me. A brown haired girl, maybe thirteen years old is thrown into my cell followed by a blond haired guy about my age. However old that is. I’m not exactly sure. And I don’t know how I can estimate these two’s ages, I just can.

Why can’t I remember anything! It’s so frustrating. The door slams shut, but I don’t see any food on the cement floor of my cell.

“Food?” I croak. I hear a thump against the door and then nothing. I turn and glare at my two new roommates. They are already bringing me trouble. Hopefully they will be gone soon. No one lasts long around here, except for me.

Wait, how do I know that? Did I have previous roommates? Nothing comes to mind. I can feel a barrier in my mind. It’s that barrier that is blocking my memories. It has to be.  I press against it. No. I don’t want my previous memories. If I can’t access them, they must not be good. I am locked away in a cell after all.

I focus on my new roommates. The guy is tall, much taller than the girl, and he is looking straight at me with really brilliant blue eyes and just staring at me. He must already be broken. The broken ones do that. They stare sightlessly at things for hours. His eyes remind me of something, but I can’t recall what it is.

I turn away to look at the girl with curly brown hair who is beating on the door, screaming at it. I guess she doesn’t realize that is a waste of her time and energy.

“Give up,” I call out to her.

She stops to turn and glare at me, “I will never give up, unlike you pathetic little creature. Crawling on the floor like some whipped dog.” She turns back to the door, and continues her abusive treatment of it.

She’ll give up eventually. They all do. You’ve seen it too. You probably remember better than me. You are, after all, my constant companion.

“Lily?” The guy asks. Is he talking to me or the girl?

Whoever he is talking to, I don’t care. They will be taken to the Xatron one day, and I will still be here, in this cell. I know life. I know my daily routine. Porridge in the morning, a chunk of moldy bread for midday, and soup in the evening. Time is told by meals. I sleep after soup. I wake up before porridge. And apparently I sometimes get intruders.

I crawl back to my mattress. The guy brushes silky blonde locks away from his eyes, and walks toward me. What does he want? Has he never seen another human being before?

He leans down, and touches my oddly bent ankle. “What did they do to you, Lily?”

“Umm, I don’t know who you are, but this is my cell. Rule number one, don’t bother me. Rule, number two, stay on the other side of the cell, and rule number three.” I pause.

What is rule number three? And why do I need a rule three? It feels necessary. It’s as if since I am listing off rules, I have to have a rule three.  Should I say don’t talk to me? No, that was basically rule number one. Hmm, maybe I don’t care about you and your sad life. No that was covered by rule number one too. Well, I started it. Have to finish it now. “No, I am not lonely. So stay the hell away from me. Got it? Good.”

I turned toward the wall and began my meditation routine. I focused on my breathing, and focused on quieting my thoughts. Making my mind blank. It’s a great way to pass the time, you should try it someday. I know you like to always be in motion, but it can make hours seem like minutes.

“What are you doing?” I jump. It’s the annoying girl. She’s standing over me, her hands on her hips.

“I am meditating. It passes the time. Did you not hear my rule number one?” Gar. She’d messed up my meditative state, and now she is bothering me.

“I don’t care about your silly rules. How long have you been in this cell?” Her voice has a really annoying twang to it. Can’t she see that I don’t want to talk to her? I won’t answer her. Yes. Maybe if I don’t talk to her she will go away.

She continues talking anyway,  “I was captured and brought here just yesterday, with my brother over there. He used to date the girl that started the rebellion. It was my first mission, and it turned out to be a trap. Our people will come though. They will get us all out.” She is way too cheerful. No one in a prison a right to be that perky.

I close my eyes and focus on calming myself. You have to be patient to. You look like you are about to blow a fuse, but you have to remember, she is young. She doesn’t know this place like we do. “You will never leave. They will feed you to the Xatron, like all the others past.” I am proud of how level and serene my voice sounds, like some sort of wise sage.

“The Xatron? Never heard of that before. What is it? And if they send everyone there, why haven’t you been there?”

Why must she remind me of my loss of memory? I open my eyes and scowl at her curious look. She shouldn’t be curious about the Xatron. I don’t know why, but I know it is where they take all the prisoners. “I-I don’t know. It’s the machine they take all the prisoners to.” I fiddle with the hem of my black prisoner pants. I hate not actually understanding what I am talking about. If I had my memories, I would know because I would understand it. It would be a part of me; like it is a part of you. But you won’t tell me anything will you? No, that’s what I thought. You are always silent. Do you not remember anything either? If only I could remember.

I push at the barrier a little. No, I wouldn’t let a teenage girl’s questions bug me enough to break the barrier.

She frowns at me, as if unsure how to respond to me.

The guy walks up to his sister, and pats her shoulder. “I bet they haven’t taken her to this machine she is talking about because she is Lily. They obviously tortured her or something, but she is most definitely Lily,” He says.

The girl smiles, “Are you Lily? The Lily? As in the girl who started the rebellion? My memories of you are so vague and distant I had no idea.”

I shrug. “I really don’t know who this Lily is you are talking about. I have lived in this cell for as long as I can remember.” Meaning as far back as the long ago time of this morning. “I am no one. Nothing. Just a prisoner surviving in a cell.”

“Can we call you Lily then? You need a name. Everyone needs a name. I am Lizzie, and this is my brother Nathan.”

Nathan is staring at me again. I feel as if he is trying to unlock my past with his eyes, which is nonsense of course. I am a crazy person. You probably figured that out though, seeing as you are my constant companion; a part of me.

I shake my head. I don’t want to remind these people of their rebellion leader, whoever she was. I am not her. “No, don’t call me by some other person’s name. Just forget me, and I will do you the courtesy of doing the same.”

“Forget?” Nathan asks in an angry voice. He storms across the cell and drops to the floor staring at the other wall. He will learn, if he survives.

Lizzie shakes her head making her brown curls bounce around her face. “He sometimes has temper issues. You know, we need something to call you by…”

“Don’t call me anything. You will be gone soon enough,” I interrupt her.

“No, everyone needs a name. I’ll call you Hope. You give hope of surviving because you have lived here a long time.” Her voice is stern, and I can tell that nothing I say will change her mind.

I sigh. Well, it seems I have a name, at least until these newest roommates leave. Does that mean you need a name too? Nah. You can just continue to be, well, you.

Reviews

The first thing I do every time I sit down at my computer is check Goodreads to see if I have any new reviews or ratings for Dishonor. Then I check Amazon. Then I check to see if I’ve sold any new copies.

When, on the off chance I see I’ve sold a single copy, my heart speeds up, sometimes I holler and clap with joy. One more person bought my book. The same thing happens when I get a review, or I see a post on Facebook about a friend liking my book.

I love hearing what people think about my book. I love hearing that people are reading it and enjoying it, because I like to share. Sharing my story with people, some whom I don’t even know, is an exhilarating and exciting feeling.

While my Goodreads give away was going on, I would check almost every hour to see how many more people were requesting my book.

I know, this is slightly pathetic. It is pathetic that I am checking on my book so much, but it is so exiting at the same time. Publishing a book is a dream come true. Its seeing my dreams read by other people. Its seeing my worlds become reality in the mind of others.

And I can’t wait to hear what more people think of my book. If I could afford it, I would buy free copies of my book for everyone, but I can’t. So instead I wait with bated breath. I wish I could contact the people that got my book. I wish I could make sure that they got it. That I could ask what they think of it. But I can’t. One of the rules about Goodreads giveaways is that you cannot contact the winners. You have to simply wait and hope that they post a review of your book.

I try to review every book I read because I know what a great feeling it is to get a review. I even like the critical reviews that are constructive. Those reviews help my writing. The reviews of people that like my book help my ego, and my motivation levels. In general, I just love hearing feedback, the good, the bad, and the mediocre.

Now, not that I want to push anyone to review… but go review an author’s book. Any author’s book. Make an author’s day.

P.S. You could always review my book…

Logical Writing

So I was sitting here, carefully planning out actions and reactions for the next section of Honored, thinking about how because this happened, this is how this character will react. And then, I moved into the unwritten territory of space, and thought, hmmm, if the character does this, then this will happen, because this is the action type of the character, and my characters current loop until something changes her behavior.

And then I realized why my stories are always so logical. I am a computer programmer, and I plan my stories out just like I do a computer program. This while loop runs until… If this happens, then this happens. Because this condition was met, this will happen.

I never really thought about the connection before now. I guess the conditionals were not correct for this realization until now.

Goodreads Giveaway Ends

Congratulations to the winners of Goodreads book giveaway. I hope everyone enjoys their copy of Dishonor. If you are a winner, your book is scheduled to arrive between January 2nd and January 5th because of the holidays. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone. I hope everyone has a great holiday season! Now, back to writing Honored.