Writing a story, like living one, is a process. Every novel has its own time, its own particular shape, its own distinct colors. A tale is not so much built from a blueprint as grown from a seed. In the case of my current novel project, I began with a glimpse of a little girl, eight years old, who thought she remembered a time when she could fly. I knew her name, Millicent McTeer. I knew who her parents were. They had met in a previous novel of mine. That was all I knew about her.

I start writing then about the few things I know for sure, and Millicent begins to explore her life at a time when the society around her is beginning to fall apart. She is conflicted, as young people tend to be these days, between an uncertain future that may prove unattainable and an idyllic past that may have never existed, except in her imagination.

Every book I've written has evolved it's own way of coming together. This is the first novel I've tackled set mostly in the future. Every day I write 1200 to 1500 or so words. I try to nail a chapter at about 18 to 20 pages. Each succeeding chapter finds Millicent about four years older. There is continuity between characters and events, but there are gaps that the reader, with the help of a liberal sprinkling of hints and clues, must imagine.

The result is that Millicent's life can be read as a novel, or as a collection of related short stories. I want reading it to be like remembering, when we assemble the whole story from fragments of recollection. This is not a new approach to writing long fiction, but it is new to me. I think it lets a lot of air into the mix, gives the story more room to breathe. When it's complete, assuming there is a publisher willing to take this one on, I'll be content to let the reader decide if I did a good thing.

Henry's books.


  1. Thanks Henry, I enjoyed this. I'm curious about how approximately how many words are in those 18-20 pages. Are they double spaced manuscript pages that would make for fewer pages in a chapter when published? Am I making any sense? Smiley face here..

    1. Double spaced 12 pt. with 1 in. margins averages about 260 words per 8 1/2 x 11 page. so a chapter as above would have about 5000 words. Hard to say what a ms. page might yield in publisher's format, but my last novel, Slick Rock Creek had about the same number of pages in the finished book (6 x 9 in.) as in the manuscript.

    2. thanks Henry, that's very helpful!


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