Yesterday, we talked about the romance, the love in the words. Today, it’s about the practicalities. The pre-nup. The cost of entry. The down-and-dirties.

The “What?”

What’s the “What?” It’s the question one asks in the hovering place between the collecting of the notes and the writing of the chapter. A test of Worthiness. A real exercise in prove-it-to-me.

This is the arena where the chapter laces up the gloves and dukes it out with itself. What is the chapter about? What is it meant to communicate? What doors does it open—and which does it shut? What significant thing happens to the character(s)? What does the chapter DO? What, ultimately, does it mean?

Each chapter must be about something. It may take the form of a “transitional” chapter that moves the story from one place to another, or a “landing” chapter in which an idea or a plot point comes to rest and resolution.

This necessary exercise is like the project in art class in which you’re given a bunch of shapes and told to make something of them. What that thing is, exactly, is the tricky part. Whether it will wind up as something abstract or descriptive/definitive  is the point yet to be discovered. But the result must, in the final view, be something.

Tough challenge, this. This in-your-face question reveals a lot about where your head is; about your limitations and your resolve and maybe, just a bit, about your ability. It challenges your ideas to their core, if only temporarily. It’s a mirror to the love/hate/love relationship the writer has with herself and her work.

Making something. From bits and pieces. Something good. That is the question, the purpose and the gift of the “What?” And it’s a question that never goes away.

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