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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Something Wicked This Way Comes... The Gap Chapter

File this under: Editing is Fun To Do!
I've noticed writing blogs have a tendency to talk about *gasp* writing. Sadly, I am stuck in the editing trenches and have decided to drag the lot of you down into the muck and mire with me.

Like everything else in writing editing is not a simple process. And like trench warfare that editing oh so closely resembles, there isn't a right way to attack every chapter.

I considered trying to dissect the entire editing process in one post, but we'd never escape. So we'll do this logically, one chapter at a time, one week at a time, until we have a battle plan for editing everything. And we're starting with the Gap Chapter because that's what I'm currently writhing in pain over.

What is the Gap Chapter? The Gap Chapter is exactly what it says, it's a gap in your writing that needs to get filled in during edits.

Picture this: You're rushing through your first draft, you have to finish before you lose all enthusiasm, and to get to the next scene you can picture you write and move on. Three thousand words later you write The End.

And then, three months later, you are only a week or two away from finishing the second draft, everything looks perfect, birds are singing, and you run into . Now you need to bridge the gap.

How To Edit a Gap Chapter:

Step 1:
Admit that Gap Chapters happen. To many authors stop writing their first draft because they hit a pothole they can't write through yet. They don't know what goes there, or they have no inspiration for the scene, and so they stop and never finish the draft.

Don't do that!

Keep writing. Leave gaps in your first draft. This is what editing is for. I've known people (myself included) who find they need to bridge two points of a story with a new POV or new action scene when they thought they were ready to query. Gaps happen, don't let them intimidate you.

Step 2: Don't rewrite a book from Chapter 1 every time you find a Gap Chapter. You won't ever finish writing.

Treat a Gap Chapter like a normal chapter that needs to be editing. The only difference is that you are rewriting the entire chapter not just phrases. You can smooth out the wrinkles later.

Step 3: Give yourself extra time.

I can edit a pre-written chapter in two to three days. A Gap Chapter usually takes 6-9 days. Sometimes more. The amount of time it will take you to write and edit a gap chapter depends on your schedule and how you usually edit. Just make sure you don't get frustrated if it takes longer than a normal chapter.

Step 4: Keep your Gap Chapter fluid.

I'm on Chapter 16 of my WIP. It's a Gap Chapter. I know I need to get the characters into the enemy base, steal pertinent information, and get out while making sure the two characters on scene clash and set up some emotional tension. It wasn't very exciting. So I added an earthquake.

Earthquakes weren't part of the original script. Now I'll fix that in all the later chapters while I edit. Because earthquakes work. It adds tension and an immediate reason for not dawdling in the building. If the Gap Chapter changes dynamics, run with it, your work will be better for it.

Step 5: Let your Beta Readers know this is new writing. Keep them informed so they can offer the constructive advice you need. And remind yourself too, this chapter isn't going to be perfect in a hurry. If you have a Gap Chapter accept the fact that this is not your last round of edits.

Step 6: Write and then step away.

Sit down and blitz the Gap Chapter. Throw every idea you have at the page, and then step back. Save and close the file and go find something else to do for the next 12 hours. Congratulations, you've written your Gap Chapter. There are words on the page.

But you need some space between you and the chapter before you can come back and edit. If you have several Gap Chapters in a row (it happens) you might consider writing all of them and then going back to the first Gap Chapter and resuming edits a few weeks later. By then you'll have the distance to actually edit efficiently.

Step 7: Don't ever give up. Trench warfare with your book is not fun. It gets frustrating to rewrite and reread and rewrite again. But I don't like hitting the gym and running 3 miles either. It's still good for me. And editing is good for your work. Keep at it and the end result will be stunning.


  1. Wonderful stuff, L. :) Filling in those gaps gave me an extra 20,000 words in GF. While gaps are evil, in retrospect, they can be a lot of fun to fill in.

  2. Great post! I need that info at the moment.

    What is the condition called when you are avoiding editing like the plague?

  3. Cowardice, possibly?

    Or, in my case, I Am Too Busy To Write-itis! I swear that's it.... promise....

    *listens to crickets in the background and realizes that it sounds less than busy here*

  4. I rarely do this--because I don't use an outline, I can't skip a chapter or I wouldn't know what happened next! But I love that you're focusing on editing--I'm going to be doing that as well in a month or so

  5. Good post! I will have to pull this up again when I start editing Monarch, heaven forbid.

    I have found that editing certainly teaches me to be a better writer. It is where I learn the most.

  6. Awesome post. Gap chapters...don't really deal with them so much. But I like the advice here.

  7. Thanks Liana,

    Very inspiring. I encounter gaps whenever I'm having trouble with the plot--a usual for my works.

    Often, I have rather large gaps, like the large word free gap between chapter one and chapter ten.

    I'd dare say it's not just easier to come back to these once I understand the story, but much more effective.

    I can write them in a way that truly enhances the end once I understand the work as a whole.