I hope everyone had a fantastic holiday weekend, got the deals of their lives and didn't get trampled at Walmart (or pepper sprayed)! To you NaNo'ers out there, good luck in the final stretch!
One thing conferences and writer's groups are good for is making a person even more insecure about their writing. What? Yes, it's me, the person who is typically speaking about how great it is to talk to other authors. The person who encourages everyone to do the same. However, it cannot be denied that the inspiration brought on by being around other artistic types sometimes brings with it a sense of failure or panic on your part when you begin to compare yourself to them.
The latest insecurity I'd like to write about is chapter length. This is one of those things I never would have considered as being an issue until I started being active in the writing community. All of a sudden, people are talking about how your chapter lengths should be consistent for more fluidity in your book. Say what? Is that something ELSE I have to stress over while writing and editing? Do I now have to go through and pare down my chapters, or bulk them up, just so they can be a consistent length throughout the book?
You see, I now happen to have been part of several conversations on the topic. There are writers who write down the number of pages and words in each chapter to keep track. They journal the exact numbers in order to be able to edit them to where they need to be to be similar. Others go back through to check how well they kept to the same numbers, but don't necessarily keep track as they go. Still others set the goal for word count in a particular chapter before they even begin. Then, of course, there are those who just keep them consistent without even trying. You know...THOSE.
Where am I in this? I just write! When did that become obsolete? Some of my chapters are a bit longer, while others are shorter. If the scene is completed, why shouldn't I start a new chapter? Now, if it's too long, I'll split it into a separate chapter, so, yes, part of me does think there's something pleasant about there not being too massive a discrepancy, I suppose, or maybe I just don't like super long chapters. That actually sounds more like it.
I'm not just picking on chapter length here, but it's a symptom of something I see all around. We over-analyze when we should just be writing. We look at something someone else points out and begin to question ourselves because it never occurred to us before. Are we doing something wrong? Is our writing lacking something that other person's might not be? Is this something I need to change, to pay attention to, to address? Is this important? Will it cost me a book deal?
OH MY GOSH! WHAT ELSE AM I DOING WRONG?
It's natural to examine the things you do. It's natural to doubt yourself, to question yourself. It's also natural to compare yourself to others, especially when they seem more accomplished or successful. However, we cannot allow this to get in the way of the important parts. Just create. Worry about the logistics later.
And when you're hanging out with others of your ilk, take what they say in the spirit they're giving it. Typically, they don't think they're better than you. They have doubts, too. They don't know if everything they're doing is perfectly correct, or even if it will work for others. So they talk about it with you. They throw it out there and see how you respond. Instead of internalizing it, discuss the merits and drawbacks with them, tell them how you do it, what you think about it. Have a dialog, but don't draw it inside you and let it eat away at you. What you're doing is right for you.
What about you? Do you think a book is best when the chapters are equal lengths? What do you nitpick about?
May you find your Muse.