Tuesday, 12 November 2013
Finding the light
http://madwomanintheforest.com/ goes through eight drafts. Aha, I thought, I like this woman. I felt even better when she said that nobody writes a publishable first draft.
She specifies two types of revision - one for the Logic of the story she is telling, and the other for Polish. Beginning with the Logic, which is so basic, she lists the scenes of each chapter on a big sheet of paper - something I do on a big spiral-bound art paper book. (I gave up water-colour painting when I started writing, so I already had the big book going spare...) Then on the left side of the paper, she lists the date and time of the action. To the right, she places an arrow to indicate if the scene ends on a positive or negative note for the main character.
It takes time, but you end up with an overview of your story. What you do then is look to see if anything is misplaced in time or emotional impact. It goes without saying that if you find any, you rectify the problem.
The next task is to look for scenes you could remove without impacting on your story. As a guide, ask yourself if the scene moves the action forward or adds to the reader's understanding of the character. If it doesn't do either, remove the scene. (If you really hate to do that, try and make changes that will better our understanding of the character or move the action forward.)
Then, draw a line through the scenes you plan to remove.
This is good advice. Initially I ripped scenes out, yes, actually deleted them, and felt very brave and in control. Some time later I wished I had kept them in a separate file somewhere, as I could have used them, or part of them, elsewhere. It's called learning the hard way.
Now what you do is read through your list. Check for repetition of words, phrases and reiteration of the same emotional point. Check for scenes that drag, take note and later work on smartening the pace. Check that you use location to the best advantage. Would a different location work better? Check for scenes that fall into the talking heads trap and if you find any, give the characters some action.