Saturday, October 08, 2005

The Method to my Madness...and it is indeed Madness

Over the last few days I wrote out scene cards for all the pieces of my novel. I ended up with 69 cards. Then I went through them a few times, eliminated all the scenes that were not essential to the basic story, and started working with the ones I had left (I think there were about 25 - yeah, a lot of gaps).

I knew going into this that the rewrite/first revision was going to be a bitch, and this was proven last night. I started working out how the story was unfolding, along with reading my sparse notes from the first read (I wanted to only get the really major stuff; and as I suspected, those notes I wrote two weeks ago or five weeks ago about how 'such and such' needs to be changed are now completely meaningless...those scenes or characters are not even making it to the second draft. Glad I didn't spend too much time making notes on that stuff!)

The most work and the most reward came from when I made a numbered list in Word of the scenes, then started adding new scene ideas, making things make more sense, moving around the scenes, cutting out unnecessary characters (I lost two characters, one of which is fairly major (she appears in a lot of scenes) but this is a good thing, I think.) A story actually started to come together on those pages. The unedited scene list with added details ended up being about 8 pages, and my shortened scene list, which only had basics, ended up being 3 pages.

Not much will be surviving from the first draft. It will be like writing a brand new book, with several elements pulled from the "old" one. I am scared about this, but I think my new story arrangement is a lot more pulled together. As I read the first draft, and went through all the index cards after I had recorded all the scenes, I thought, "This shit is all over the place!" Hopefully the rewrite will be tighter.

Some strange things: symbols that were in the draft and were actually attached to someone else or some other idea became important in different ways in my new story outline. The major plot point that I was afraid earlier was a mistake and would have to be ignored turns out to be one of the main and most important elements in the book. I didn't quite expect it to be that way, so it's a pleasant surprise. The unconscious mind really is a help in these kinds of things; it finds possibilities that my normal tired brain wouldn't, and just when I think some aspect of the story is pointless, it shows me how it can benefit the story as long as I can weave it through the whole narrative.

When I wrote short stories and novel starts in my earlier "career," if you can call it that without making any money or publishing anything (wait, a a NON vanity publication, thank you very much), revising was always the favorite part for me. It's strange, after the words are written there are so many possibilities. It's exciting to think of something new, better and more cohesive coming from this pile of mass that before reading, I was unsure could be salvaged into something meaningful. So I'm hoping this revision process will be enjoyable as well, albeit a lot longer because I actually have a whole novel to work with. Before, I was the "Write a chapter and figure out everything in that chapter, then never get to Chapter Two and start some other project" type of writer. It was fun revising them; they just never got anywhere!!

I doubt I'll try to submit this first novel anywhere, even when it's finished and rewritten and polished and all. It's my first novel, and that means it's bound to be lackluster and rather generic no matter how hard I try to improve it. You hear so much about people regretting publishing their first novels. Our even their second. I may be writing for while before I start trying to find an agent while I truly learn the craft (instead of piddling around with it like before). But I'm proud of myself for creating something last night that actually resembled a decent story. And now when I start rewriting, I'm going to pick my words carefully instead of pushing blindly through, only proving something to myself. Now I'm proving to myself that I can actually make something out of these 100k words, granted only a few thousand will probably survive and exist in the second rewrite. Oh well, such is life. This book is going to teach me that I want to outline the story arc *before* I write the story. I definitely think, at this point, it's a better way to go. I guess I'll find out in November whether that will work for me or not - I at least have a lot more of a premise for that novel, and some scenes sketched out already.

In the meantime, I'll be going through every 220 pages of this novel, circling what parts I want to draw from or will contribute something to the new rewrite (I might have one scene that I don't have to do much with - and about 30 new scenes to create to fit my altered storyline). I wonder how many pages I'll have left after I'm done with that.

I can tell you one thing, I'm afraid that these two characters I've cut (oh, and a third minor character) will come to me in my dreams, giving me grief and demanding their characters be resurrected somehow. I do feel the bittersweetness of losing these characters, and all the effects they've had on the plot, but they were just distractions, really, in the grand scheme of things. It's like I was writing two or three separate books - so I had to figure out what was really important. Sorry, Tracey and Amanda. And Tony. I'm sure I'll find a place for you in some other book, someday.


At 9:02 PM, Blogger Newsandseduction said...



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