Post-Apocalipstick: Fun With Graphs!

Hello. As some of you may be aware, around a week ago I finished the first draft of the novel I’ve been hacking away at since last November, tentatively titled Post-Apocalipstick. I’m not due to start editing for a while yet. I want to let the manuscript sit for a while so I can come back to it with fresh eyes, and take some time to catch up on other pursuits like reading or playing The Last of Us (seriously, it’s great so far, totally sucked me in).

That said, I couldn’t resist popping back in to take a look at some things, most notably the structure of the thing. And since I’m a bit of a maths nerd as well as a writing geek, I couldn’t resist plugging some numbers in and mocking up a visual representation. Which I’m now going to share with you lucky people! YAY!

Graph One: Chapters

Alright, so what are we looking at here? The horizontal (or x) axis is chapter numbers. As you can see, there are 30 chapters, plus a prologue and an epilogue. The vertical (or y) axis shows the length of each chapter in words. Obviously, the higher a blue bar is, the more words there are. I’ll just focus on these for the moment.

A fair few of the chapters seem to round up or down to the 4000 word mark. This wasn’t deliberate, but there could be good reason for it. During the NaNoWriMo phase of the project, I was trying to average 2000 words a day. I wasn’t consciously trying to write a chapter every two days, but I ended up coming close to that. The NaNoWriMo phase ended with chapter 16. Including the prologue, this is 17 chapters written in 30 days. The two chapter discrepancy can be accounted for due to the short length of the prologue, chapter 10, and chapter 16 balancing out the longer chapters (though none especially long at this point).

No, it’s later on we get to the real behemoths. Chapters 21 and 26, both standing tall over the others, silently judging them for being so small and pitiful. Strangely, having taken a glance at the chapter titles, they’re no more important than other chapters. In fact chapter 21 is part of a section I’ll be removing completely, and 26 is mostly set up and exposition moving into the final act. I imagine that one will be cut down or split up in the editing process.

This brings us to the green and red lines. The green line is an average. As you can see, it’s floating just below the 3500 mark (it’s 3390 to be precise). This surprised me. Given the large number of chapters around the 4000 mark, and the two buoying up the average, I thought the average would be more than 4000. It’s evidently dragged down by the shorter chapters, but even removing the five shortest only brings it up to around 3800.

The red line is a linear trend line based on the chapter lengths. The length of the chapters throughout varies rather wildly, but the overall trend is that the chapters get longer as the book goes on, moving from an average of under 3000 to nearly 4000. Interestingly, removing the two longest chapters results in a line that trends downwards, though at a much shallower rate than the current line. In fact, it’s close to horizontal. Without those two outliers, it appears I’ve struck something of a balance in terms of pacing my chapters.

Graph Two: Acts

Less to say about this one. Sorry about the displaced bars. They were on the first graph as well, but a lot less noticeable. It’s because later versions of Excel don’t have the option to include an average line, so I had to fill cells with the average formula, add them to the graph in the form of invisible bars, then calculate a trend line based on it.

Same format for this graph, but with each of the five acts, rather than separate chapters. In the interest of not skewing the average, I included the prologue as part of act one, and the epilogue as part of act five, though in an ideal world, I’d keep them separate.

The green line shows the average length of an act is between 20,000 and 25,000 words (21,693 to be precise). This was my guess already. With the word count nearing 110,000 it made sense for the average of each of the five acts to be just short of 22,000. Unfortunately, my target length was between 70,000 and 90,000 overall, which I’ve handily eclipsed. However, my first edit will be to delete act four altogether. It was a nice side excursion that I enjoyed writing, but it serves no purpose in the overall story, and will shave around 22,500 words from the total.

We don’t need the red trend line to show which way the word lengths go. Unlike the erratic chapter lengths, every act after two gets longer, resulting in a rather nice curve as the story hits the all important final act.

The sad part about all this is it’s essentially meaningless. Aside from act four being excised completely, I’ve had a better idea for act three, which will result in me rescuing what I can, but mostly rewriting it from top to bottom. But I think this post will pay off in a few months when I can look at the structure of the rewritten draft and compare.

If you’ve made it this far, congratulations. And thanks for reading.

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