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Wednesday, 19 July 2017

How Long is a Chapter?



Writing Magazine arrived last week or perhaps even the week before, I'm not sure if I'm honest. Life has gone a bit wobbly. I'm exasperated, last month I spent serious time ridding myself of things that stopped me from getting on with my writing. Some were things I really like doing.

I'd made headway, freed up time, made a plan and then WHAM! Life throws me a curve ball. I'm not alone, it's happening daily to others too. Having almost got my offspring sorted, it looks like I'll be needed to help (do everything) for my mum. I'm all at sea, I have no idea how to manage work, home, and care. It's a shock. But you do what you have to do.

I've dipped my toe into the treacherous waters known as 'the system' of caring for someone who can no longer care for themselves. I've made more phone calls in three days than I have in the last two months, just to get someone to come out and change some dressings. Mum had a cancerous lump removed from her head, and skin taken from her leg has been grafted onto the head wound.  It's okay hospitals saying the dressing need checking and changing daily by a nurse, but if there is no care in the community, or very little to go around, what are we supposed to do? The GP surgery advised me that as of eight weeks ago they don't do secondary care.

We had to cope. I took matters into my own hands, well it's not like I had to deliver a baby - it's a dressing! Two actually. I managed the leg okay, but faltered with the head wound, it didn't look right - it looked nasty, I'm not squeamish, but you sort of know when something isn't right don't you? Or do you? What do I know, I'm in engineering, not medicine. More phone calls. Lengthy repeated conversations with people who you know are stretched to the limit.

Then success, someone will come out between 7.30am and 7.30pm, so while I go about life, Mum sits and waits. They come, they say I did okay with the leg, but I'm right to have called about the head wound. They'll come back tomorrow.

They don't. Or the next day, or the next. I keep ringing up and finally they say they'll come out. They've been busy dealing with the sick and dying.

Tuesday - Mum tells me it was a different nurse. 'Very young, lovely girl, had to look up  how to do the dressing on one of those things you've got with an Apple on it.' I'm calm - it's been done, all is well and happy. I slap down thoughts about proper training and feel guilty about having nasty thoughts. These people are doing their best.

Twelve hours later the phone rings 'Maria, I'm sorry, the dressing has come off, it wasn't put on very well.' Tears. Not mine.

I ring. They say they are coming.

Friends told me tales, I've been sympathetic, but it isn't until it happens close to home, that you realise, they aren't crazy or being mean, when they tell you, they feel guilty because they don't feel they are doing enough, because they are going to work, looking after children, their own or their grandchildren, can't remember when they last went out, exercised, or sat down and read a book. They get called out at night, they tell me they can't go on, they can't sleep, they feel angry, and in one case, they want to run away, and never look back.

They tell you the system is overloaded, because we're living too long, having too many children, letting too many folks into the country, blah, blah, blah you've heard it all before. You think maybe they ARE having a mental breakdown. Because this friend doesn't usually rant, or snap. In your heart you know it's frustration. You understand now what they meant when they said, 'It's hopeless.'
 **
My week has passed in  flash, I've done 500 words of prose and written this blog post, I haven't got time to edit, please forgive any typos.

At 4.30pm I forced myself to sit down and have a cup of tea, picked up Writing Magazine and read an interview with AA Dhand, crime novelist, (page 16 August edition) I'm not familiar with his books, but after reading the interview I want to read them.  You can find out more about him here

Amit, a trained pharmacist writes between 9pm and midnight, I smiled when I read that - his books are dark noir. In the interview he says he has a formula, he's all about pace and driving the story forward. All his chapters are 1,700 words per chapter, because Writing Magazine competitions are 1,700 words. He wants to make sure readers finish reading each chapter. He always leaves his chapters on a cliff hanger, he got that from Dan Brown, I'm nodding in agreement, I read that too and try to do the same. He listens to Hans Zimmer when he's writing, that is so spooky, so do I, and he reads Stephen King.

It got me thinking, how long is a chapter? Are all your chapters the same length? Mine aren't, maybe I should try it? Let me know your thoughts?

Meanwhile, I must return to this new chapter of my life, I must find out if the nurse has been? If she managed to change the dressing? Or if she had to go before she could finish?

20 comments:

  1. Sorry to hear about the difficulties you are experiencing with your mum's care. Another friend of mine is going through much the same! Our care system is in a shocking state thanks to our government's mismanagement and underfunding. (Not just the current government actually, I blame Cameron's and Blair's too.) As for ac chapter,I have no idea how long they are! The Book Thief had chapters that were less than a page I seem to remember! Much depends on genre. I admire you for managing to write anything at the present time and who says a chapter can't be 500 words or the length of a blog-post?

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    1. Thanks Lindsay, and yes I think genre is perhaps involved with the length of a chapter.

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  2. I'm so sorry to hear the challenges you and your mum are facing - I hope she heals quickly and no longer needs the dressings changed.

    My chapters are all different lengths, sometimes just a page or two in the first draft, although I merge them later. In my current WIP they range from 1500 to 2500. I don't know if this is a good thing or not.

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    1. I've been known to merge chapters, once I revisit a draft, if it makes more sense I join them up.

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  3. Oh Maria, I'm so sorry, it's a horrible feeling to be unable to get the medical care that is needed. Things really are in a sorry state with local care. I'm wishing your mum a swift healing. And well done you for tackling things yourself. Be kind to yourself and don't expect too much for the time being. It's horrible feeling overwhelmed. I hope you are able to find at least a little time to relax and read or something else for you. Sending you a cyber hug. CJ xx

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    1. Hi CJ, thank you for the cyber hug, things are more settled now.

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  4. Hi Maria - gosh it sounds troubling ... and I hope your mother's head wound will be fine. I sincerely hope there isn't an implosion of the health service ...

    Re chapters - short for short books, longer as the need occurs - I'd say ... perhaps try short stories and thus shorter writing needs for the moment ... good luck though - and with many thoughts - Hilary

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    1. Thank you Hilary, I'm sticking to blog posts and short pieces for a while.

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  5. What a terrible time you're having, Maria - hope your mum is completely well again soon. I make chapters as long as they need to be and they probably vary.

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    1. Thank you Rosemary, we managed to have a nice cup of tea together on Friday and talk a little about other things. I think she is feeling less worried.

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  6. Maria - I thought this was a really well written, absorbing & interesting blog post because it came straight from the heart. I hope your mother gets the healthcare she deserves.
    I too liked the idea of 1700 word chapters when I read the WM article - mine tend to be all over the place. But there's probably no right or wrong on this.

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    1. Thank you Sally.
      I may give the 1700 word chapter a spin, but not for a while. I need to stick to short pieces for a while.

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  7. Well done you for making time to put your thoughts into this blog post. It's so frustrating when faced with these challenges. I wish I could say things ease up as time goes on, but they don;t ... so brace yourself!
    On the bright side, encounters with NHS nonsense - despite the protests from those who say they've had excellent care - can often provide excellent material for a story.
    I hope your Mum mends soonest.

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    1. Thank you Anne, and yes, I don't think Ill be short of material.

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  8. Hi Maria, I haven't blogged in a long time but I do like to check in on you from time to time. It's awful what's happening to you and your Mum. I know exactly how you feel. I lost my Dad a few weeks ago to cancer, and we had the same issues with various health services, and had to really fight for his care. I know what you mean about struggling with the balance of work, home, and care. Keep fighting to get your mum the care she needs, and remember to look after yourself too. Everything else can wait. x

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    1. Sorry to hear about your dad Catherine, and thank you for your kind words.

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  9. Sorry to hear your mum (and you) have been having difficulties. Caring can be stressful, so you take care of yourself too, both mentally and physically.x

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  10. I wonder if maybe you were inspired to free up time because someone knew you were going to need the extra for what was coming. No one tells you how hard it is being a caretaker, how emotionally draining, demanding, or exhausting it is. One day at a time, eh? Until this too feels like it's doable. You're doing better than you know.

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    1. I know what you mean Crystal, it's almost like there is a higher power with these things.

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