21 September 2008

Anatomy of a novel

So here I am, sitting on the third book in the Library of Athena series. The first draft, which has taken me...about two years. Yeah, there have been some minor issues that slowed me down. At one point I put the thing aside completely and worked on my own Wizard Academies novel, just to get my mind off of it.

This summer I picked it up again and plowed through. Of course I'm not happy with it. It's a first draft, which by default is utter dreck. Crap. I didn't like the way it fell together, the pieces weren't quite right yet. Things were NOT WORKING. Someone gave me a plotting chart, and I tried it...
It looks a mess, but it was very helpful. I can see all at once how the bits of my story are supposed to go together. There's story arc, and character arc, and series arc, and all these things have to work together, or it won't do what it's supposed to. This chart doesn't really contain anything but bare bones notes; not many specifics, but it's the underpinnings of the story - those bits that make it stand up, but that you don't really see. The stickies are my own notes for things I need to remember to change on my next draft. When I use this for my next first draft, I think it'll come out faster and cleaner. This is NOT an outline, but a plot. I hate outlines. Some like them, but I find them too restricting. I also LURVES my whiteboard - it's great for brainstorming. I recommend them to every writer.
Which brings me to the next thing I did differently. I printed out the manuscript. I never do that for a draft - frankly because paper and ink are precious commodities. But I have a new printer that takes cheaper ink cartridges, so I gave it a go.
It's brilliance! I'm able to see stuff much more clearly, like repeated words. Plus I can take the binder to other places, which is sometimes what I need to kick me in the pants. I could take the laptop, but then I get distracted...you know how that goes. Anyway, I discovered the opening was all wrong, based on my plot chart. Here is part of the carnage...

I ripped, highlighted, cut, and basically deccimated my first ten pages. Some of them I actually had to tear the paper to keep the scene I wanted. I've been making my way through the rest, slowly, taking my notes...

So now you can see all the guts inside. This is how a crazed writer takes matters into her own hands and wrangles a story into submission. I'm hoping that once I'm done and actually rewrite the thing, I will have far less work to do before I have a finished product. Overall I'm happy with this new process. Because I just can't take two years to write a first draft anymore.

I iz a professhunel wryter now. :)

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