Don’t Fear the Reaper

My post yesterday (was it yesterday? says the new mom) about how a pretty major plot point in my rough-drafted novel has reverted to an earlier form switched the track on my creative train of thought. I woke up today unable to stop thinking about that story…the state it’s in right now and what the actual work will be to fix it. As with any large project, once my brain parses it out into available steps, I feel much less frightened and overwhelmed, no matter how large the actual to-be-done list.

The steps, as I see them:

  1. thinking through what the actual plotline will now be
  2. determining what scenes that storyline requires
  3. examining which scenes from the original draft can be salvaged
  4. tallying the scenes which need to be written whole-cloth
  5. writing those scenes
  6. adjusting the scenes that can be saved to fit the new events/timeline
  7. reading work as a whole with an editorial eye
  8. tweaking scenes, characterizations, etc. to trim flab, preordain the consequences, make all coherent, etc.
  9. send to beta readers
  10. feel ill until reports come back
  11. adjust to reader issues
  12. line edit for clarity, murdering darlings, tightening, reworking dialogue to be more unique to characters and right for time, etc.

Only the first six items (heh! “only”) are outside the normal workflow of turning a rough draft into a finished book. Not too terrible when spelled out like that.

This morning I sat down and did the first four all in one brainstorm. Took half an hour and one cup of tea. Suddenly half the list is gone, and I feel a lot more in control of what comes next.

I was surprised at how few scenes need to be written from scratch. Seven or eight big scenes (though some will consist of 2-4 smaller scenes), and another 5 that will need revising, if I recall the original draft correctly…and that’s it until I move on to corrections based on reading it as a whole.

Having the actual number before me helps with the intimidation factor. The finity conferred by a numbered sequence is comforting to someone like me who fears the unknown more than any known terror; the smallness of the number is even more comforting.

Aside from merely not having as much to write as I feared (something less than 20K vs more than 30K), I am pleased with the brevity of early events now. The drafted beginning is a sprawling ramble that has about ten different plotlines it introduces, and doesn’t begin tangling any (much less all!) of them until something ridiculous like 40K words in. Way too long of a set-up. Figuring out how to compress that was damaging my calm and making me not want to move forward with revisions. So seeing the opening tightened up just by virtue of cutting one or two of those threads enthuses me about getting to work on this thing.

And the best part is, since I am writing from the beginning, I don’t need what I previously wrote to find my place in the story, so my current lack of immediate access to the document files is utterly irrelevant to the work at hand.

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2 Comments

Filed under Writing

2 responses to “Don’t Fear the Reaper

  1. Told you you were gestating (hehe).

    Congratulations – in the whole process, including the brainstorming. Identifying the fear (or even realizing you’re afraid in the first place) is the start. Making list… I keep telling myself ‘trust the process.’ It takes long enough to get a working process, and it usually needs tweaking more than a complete revamp – and then you’re back in familiar working territory, and it feels good.

    Happy writing.

    • Yup yup yup :)

      Part of me wants to say “gee if that was all it took why didn’t I do this ages ago?!”…but to your point, the idea was being formed but wasn’t yet ready to emerge. Or i wasn’t really ready for it, maybe.

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