My Online Literary Experiment: The Joy and Agony of Reaching 100 Pages

100 pages has always been my writing hump.

I can’t explain why this is true exactly, but it has been for each of the six books I have written (three published, and one online), but I do have some theories. By 100 pages, I will have presented and introduced much of the plot, the style of the work will be firmly in place, and by then each of my major characters would have stepped forward and taken a bow. The only time I can remember this not being true was when I wrote A Jane Austen Daydream and the main love interest would not emerge until almost page 200.

Sometimes this 100 page marker can be a book killer. I have abandoned work and actually started over from scratching after reaching that mark and not being happy with what I did building up to that almost holy number.

When Chapter 8 goes up on Friday, I will have reached 100 pages for Permanent Spring Showers, and with it, just like noted above, much of the plot and all of the major characters will be introduced. Yet, because of how I am creating this work and sharing it the feeling of relief I usually get at this point does not feel the same.

Yes, I don’t feel a sense of relief or excitement, and I think that comes down to the fact that I am publishing this online as I am writing it. Each chapter, can make or break the entire book and your reading experience (you are reading, right?). So while in most book first drafts, a writer can “coast” through a few chapters that they know they will go back and “fix” during the editing process, in this book, everything matters on every page. Frankly, I am not given the luxury of a first draft here and, yes, that is scary.

I joked over twitter this weekend that I could epically fail in the process of creating this book and that is very true, it is not a joke. I could end up with a book that has a plot that falters or doesn’t deliver, an ending that seems anti-climatic, or worse, characters that fluctuate from page to page. I cannot be lazy, my mind must be in the game every time I still down to work on a chapter, and I can never, never take a writing break.

Yup, I can never take a break from the book, because there is no time. A break could hurt me later on and this is more true in the longer chapters than in the shorter ones. For example, Chapter 7 was 20 pages. You can’t just sit down and work on 20 pages (at least I can’t), because that would be hours of review and rewriting. No, I had to work in increments, and then see if it worked all together. That means, for that chapter, I was working on bits and pieces of it each evening and every spare moment I could find, be it early morning or while dinner is being made.

Okay, I admit that is complaining, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love the challenge. I am totally digging this and seeing what I am capable of doing. It’s more than simply writing, this is testing all aspects of your writing muscle! I need to be creative with dialogue, I need to make each character stand out, and I need to make sure that each chapter has something, some kind of “spark” that makes you want to read on the next week. That last point, again, shows one major difference between this book and any you might pick up at a store all together finished.

My dream is that if (and I know that this is a big “if”) a publisher out there is reading this and is liking it and contacts me about publishing the final product, I can actually publish this as a unique book as well. The first book with supplemental material just like a Blu-ray movie! See, my dream is that the final “published” book would have the book in the front, and then be followed with my essays on the process (like this one), and then in the last spot the original screenplay so readers can see where I deviated or changed from the original plots, characters, and ideas (and trust me, this is a different beast; for example, very little of the original dialogue is here in the book). To just have it be published as a normal book after going through the editing process feels too easy, especially after what I am putting myself through in the creation process.

So where do things stand right now? Well, Chapter 8 has a first draft done. It needs work and it is almost 20 pages. A bulk of Chapter 9 is done, but what is hilarious is I have completed everything in the chapter BUT the most important scene. I think I might be having some stage fright around that bit (I’ll talk more about that probably during my next update). Chapter 10 is outlined and I can “feel” it, but there is little there yet.

It could be argued that in production size and schedule I am doing just fine, but that doesn’t take into consideration how much time, energy, and creativity I need to get each paragraph, each sentence what I want it to be. That focus does pay off, when I do it right. Let me give you an example: Chapter 6 was one of four chapters I expected to be trouble for me in the writing (the others are 16, 19 and 23). To get through it, I first went to one of my writing locations (Yes, I am at Biggby writing again, see my original essay on writing at my local Biggby here), and just started brainstorming on a notepad.

Yeah, I did the old trick of brainstorming, throwing out ideas for the characters and their motives. A fire ignited with one major character change that came up (I won’t ruin it here, but if you read the chapter you probably can guess which reveal I mean). I had to jump back to an earlier chapter and make sure the change I wanted to make was even possible. Once the change was there, the outline formed quickly around that evening. And after a week, rewriting and rewriting, one of the chapters that terrified me became one of the best I have done so far… Well, at least in my opinion.

For those that have read my other books, you can probably tell that Permanent Spring Showers is very different. This is all part of the challenge I wanted to give myself, see if I could juggle multiple plots and characters over what will be only a two-and-a-half month time span. Usually, in my books, I like to focus on one character’s journey, allowing everyone else to play second fiddle to what that person is experience be it Jacob in My Problem With Doors, Megan Wane in Megan, Jane Austen in A Jane Austen Daydream, and even going so far back to my first book (which I would love to rewrite and republish, since I am so unhappy with the final draft out there because of a lackluster editing process) with Moonboy of 3 Days in Rome.

Let’s go back to discussing the need for time, those that read my blog know I am a dad of two little kids (they are 4 and 1 right now). I do not have the capability to sit for hours and write. In many ways I have had to retrain my brain to turn off and on quickly for the spare moments I can. One of the great lifesavers for this novel has been Notes on my iPhone. Wherever I am, I can simply open the program and start dictating my ideas or dialogue into it. It is wonderful. Every writer should have an iPhone because of this. To think I used to have to carry a small notepad in my back pocket!

For me, probably my greatest worry is that in the long run I am only doing this for myself. There is nothing, in my opinion, as sad as a writer without a reader. I look at the numbers each day and it looks like others are taking part in this journey, which is a relief, but I would love for the numbers to increase. If you are enjoying the work and the process, please consider sharing the page with friends. You can try e-mail or twitter or Facebook or maybe even write about it on your own blog (And if you do any of these things please contact me, I would love to know). Also, I would love to hear from you. If you like a chapter or have a question, please feel free to comment or hit the “like” button. Just please don’t point out grammar mistakes or misspelled words.

It will only make me cry.

You can read Permanent Spring Showers (what there is so far) via the Permanent Spring Showers page (here). If you liked reading my article (and maybe the book in process), why not check out some of my published books? I had two novels published in the last few years, My Problem With Doors and Megan. You can find them via my amazon.com author page here, or as an ebook on Google eBooks here.  Thanks for reading!

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