Any writer tackling a large work such as a novel or screenplay will need to consider the matter of structure. The easiest way out, of course, is to follow a conventional model.
In fiction that might mean 60,000 words, more or less, spread out over 20 to 24 chapters, typically in a straight chronological order, past tense. For the film, something that would come in a little under two hours. To that you’d add pacing, points of conflict, resolution, number of main characters, and so on.
Sometimes, though, you find that’s not the best way to organize your material.
For example, in its revisions, Promise emerged with three sections, each set in a different locale – Prairie Depot, the Ozarks, and finally the Katonkah Valley. Each one, as it turns out, can be viewed as a novella held together by the central couple, Erik and Jaya.
I didn’t intend it this way. The original version had five sections, for one thing, which I came to feel were simply too unwieldy. The cuts provided what I feel gives a better balance.
Let me also admit to a fondness for shorter novels. Novels, mind you, not simply novellas, no matter how much I enjoy them, as well. Maybe it’s a reflection of my typically crowded schedule.
Still, both short stories and novellas stand as kinds of orphans in today’s literary scene. They should be more popular than they are. An occasional solution, one I’ve enjoyed reading, runs a central character through a set of short stories to culminate in a volume of novel length. It’s a tricky strategy, though, and hard to pull off.
Maybe that’s one more reason I feel a special satisfaction with Promise.
Hope you do, too.
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