I realize the title of this post normally has a Don't in front of it, but when final revisions are being done, it really is time to sweat the small stuff.
Novels (mine, at least) don't get written from beginning to end. They get written in layers. Each layer adds more complexity to characters, themes, plot or setting. Sometimes whole new ideas jump out in later drafts and the information to support those ideas has to be woven in throughout the story.
It's inevitable that, upon doing revisions on page 499, I realize: "Oik! I need to change something on page 5 to support, introduce and/or foreshadow this." Since it's counterproductive to leave the scene I'm slaving over and hit the Go To button to backtrack, I make a "Go To List" of things I need to fix/add/enhance earlier in the book.
My Go To List might include:
1. Ideas or details to be worked into the WIP 2. Scenes that need to be incorporated 3. Elements that need to be added, enhanced or brought forward in more detail
and after doing all of the above, there's a final step:
4. Do at least two complete read-throughs for continuity, orderly plot progression and character development. (Did I find problems? Start another Go To list.)
I often use keywords to prod my memory. Here's an example of a current Go To List from P2PC:
In developing the characters for P2PC, I realized that the three principle characters all have something in common; they are refugees from their pasts--each in a very different way. Each suffers from grief and confusion over a life-altering event. They have all endured personal torment. They all have inner demons to defeat. One of the characters even seems to have benefitted, until the reader is clued in how their life was impacted. (Yes, I'm intentionally being non-gender specific here.)
P2PC has three protagonists--one male and two females--though two of the protags become enemies. In a twist, the lives of the two who are at odds end up having close parallels. It takes a violent confrontation to reveal the common ground.
The characters all deal with their loss differently--by escaping from it, by swearing to avenge it, and by living in denial. Eventually, they all have to face it.
Backstory is always one of elements I enjoy discovering, whether I'm writing the tale or reading it. The novel begins at a place and a point in time, but what came before defines how the characters will act, feel, and respond to other characters and their environment. It's the buried treasure chest waiting to be uncovered. But what's inside? Is it bright and shiny or dark and twisty? (Dark and twisty is so much more fun.)
When I sit down with a story idea and begin working, I don't know every nuance of the characters or their pasts. These elements come to light as the story evolves.
I think that's why writing is such an addiction for some (*raises hand*), because it's constant discovery and you never know what surprises and revelations await you. Writing a story is, as Forest Gump said: "...like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're going to get."
*corkpop* Yes! I am BACK! Internet problems RESOLVED late this afternoon. *deep breath* Ahhhhhh! Feels great to be able to move around cyberspace again, no longer frozen in time.
Lots to fill you in on! :D
P2PC is DONE!!!! Wooo hooooo! I finished at 3:21 pm this afternoon. Dark & Twisty ending ensues. After deciding to throw word count to the wind and write as many dang words as the ending needed, I'm up to about 110,700 words. Not too horrible, and I'm sure I'll loose some with trims, but I'm expecting the final product around 105,000 - 106,000 or so. *sticks out tongue at the 95,000 word rule* Neener, neener.
I very happy with it. Drea stays more true to herself during the whole Ryn-pulls-the-wool-over-Sair's-eyes episode. She becomes divided between her cold professional pilot self who sees the value in the high-risk mission and her warmer feminine side who loves Sair and is terrified of losing him.
I think Ryn comes across as--well, still a pompous jerk at times--but a by-the-regulations senior officer who for the first time realizes he has something very important to lose--Zjel. And she ranks at least as high in priority as his carrying out his father's vision, but he has a hard time showing or expressing that in clear terms. He's divided. (Yep, runs in the family. hehe) Does he get the girl in the end? Well, you'll have to read the novel. LOL Sair affixes a term to their relationship that popped into my my head when I was writing a scene and I love it! It's a running theme through the various events, now.
The new ending. I wasn't happy with the last one. In fact, I haven't been happy with the last three. What I did, at last, is crammed most of the important elements of Book 2 into one chapter. *turns on trash compacter* Yup, the story wraps and I think that's what my instincts were telling me needed to happen. I can still write other books in this universe. There's Jagger's story, the kids, and cousin, Daava [Jaeo's estranged daughter] who never came out of the woodwork on this one, and many others. Oh yes, and D'nar Rand...the evil personna who haunted the Toasted Scimitar Halloween chat, and kept sprinkling salt on all the guests.
Well, back to work tomorrow but I am a happy camper tonight. I reached my goal of completing my novel before my leave was over. Nothing but tweaks, tightening and tidying ahead. Oh yes, and writing the synopsis and query letter. *Does Bugs Bunny contortions* ACK!
*skips off to her bed, whistling I Can See Clearly Now*
The Navajo culture. Why? Because their society is predominately matriarchal and incorporates a clan or Ke system. It is the females in their society that do the majority of the planning and setting of direction for the community. The Ke system regulates social conduct and behavior, and guides personal interaction.
What does that have to do with my SciFiRom? Actually, quite a lot. The male protag in my story is from a male-dominated, warrior society, but their system of naming and recognizing a primary heir puts huge importance on the female family. Learning more about the Navajo traditions is giving me some great insights on customs, quirks and paradoxes that I can throw into the mix.
I have a serious case of 'revision-muddles' tonight. That happens when I've worked so hard on scrubbing and polishing my draft that everything--plot, characters, conflict--becomes a blur. From experience I know that the next stage is the dread Writer's Meltdown, soooo...
I'm going to take a deep breath.
Pry my hands from the keyboard.
Take two giant steps back.
And leave my novel alone for a night...maybe two. (We'll see how it goes.)
Meanwhile, I snagged this classic quote from Lisa Shearin's blog. (With her permission, of course.) Yes, this hits the nail on the head.
"Some people are intimidated away from writing a book because they think we authors have the whole book in our heads when we start. Heck, most of us don't have the whole book in our heads when we finish."
LOL. Love it!
There was a movie I saw a long time ago called "Make Mine Chartreuse." The male and female leads involved a pretty major role-reversal (he was a romance novelist and she ran a big construction company). [Those familiar with P2PC know role-reversal is a huge element in the story. ::: wink, wink :::] Anyway, I remember one scene in the movie where she wears this big, black fur coat to his room and tells him, "Think page 132."
And I thought: Yeah, right! Like he's going to remember what's on that particular page after it's been revised and renumbered fifty times. Silly non-writer. LOL
OK, time to start my mini-vacation. I'll be back soon.
Wow. Did I ever have a great weekend, production-wise! My internet has only been working intermittently, which is bad for blogging but great for working on manuscripts.
Where Am I?
I have the first sweep of my P2PC rewrite done, except for the last few pages which have to be hashed out from scratch. Almost there! :)
Current word count: 105,500
Yes! I've slashed another 1,200 or so words. Added some. Slashed some more. Still need to cut about 6,000 words, but that's within the realm of "doable."
Am I Happy With The Changes?
Pretty much. I had one of those creative moments where a surprise element sprang from my stream of thought and started flopping around on the page like a beached fish (other writers probably know what I mean). Anyway, I need to come back to that scene later and see how well it flies...er, swims. It's a religious-mysticism-meets-military-rigidity scene that helps define the conflict between one of my protags and my problem child, Ryn.
Write the ending. Do another sweep of the new material. Have my critters have a go at the new stuff. Do a complete readthrough from page 1, fix minor problems and tweak a few things.
Sometimes not writing words is a huge accomplishment. Sometimes the exact opposite is a major achievement. How can this be?
My (over-long for a first novel) 120,000+ word manuscript is now--ta daaaa!--106,700 words. It's been an epic slash-and-burn fest in the last week. I fired up the laze-saws and went to work with a vengence. I slashed entire scenes, re-arranged chapters, relocated sentences and dialogue to tighten up passages, and extricated anything that didn't absolutely have to be there. I rewrote one scene that lasted an entire chapter and changed elements that made it only about 1/3 of a chapter (700 words) in length.
So that's the good news. The bad? I still have over 7,000 words to burn. That translates to about three average chapters. ::: insert melting scream image here :::
Can it be done? Um, that's a definite maybe. I still have ten chapters that haven't been through the meatgrinder yet, so there could be more fodder for the Deleted Scenes files, but...I still have to write several new scenes. That concerns me. One step back, three steps forward, and in this case, I don't wanna go forward.
If any of you have been following Lisa Shearin's blog, you've been indoctrinated into the life of a writer (provided you aren't experiencing it first-hand :) ) It's a messy, convoluted process, with a lot of traffic jams and wrong turns. Even some trainwrecks. It's like taking a long roadtrip and trying to find your destination with just a few major landmarks in your head, and no roadmap to follow.