Monday, September 3, 2012

Save(d) My Novel

I finally did it! I took my current WIP, which I feared was a tangled mess of out-of-place scenes and jumbled characters, and straightened them all out in a way I could see them--literally. And I actually found that I wasn't too far off.

When I write a novel, I usually start with collected ideas for scenes (scribbled on scraps of paper, tiny notebooks in my purse, or my phone) which take me months to years to compile (while I'm working on something else), then I order them into an outline, and then begin writing, checking things off as I go.

When NaNoWriMo rolled around last year, I found an opportunity to take those notes and outline and the scenes I'd started, and transform them into a rough draft. Though I wasn't able to participate strictly by the rules (I had already begun my writing), it was an excellent way to motivate myself into finishing the writing. I ended November 2011 with nearly 75k words that I now needed to edit--which is coming along nicely.

But I had two problems: First, my newest novel has three main characters with three POV, and I needed to see that each character had an arc as well as an inclusive overall story arc. I needed to make sure that I didn't leave out any important plot elements, and I wanted to make sure it didn't drag anywhere. My second, slightly less problematic issue, was that when I began, I didn't have a clear idea of who exactly each character was from the start, so I needed to reread quickly (while it was all in my head at once...you try and remember facts when you space it over weeks or months) to verify consistency.

So I decided to put into practice what I'd learned from a class at the LDStorymakers writers conference last May. The class was taught by the engaging and talented Elana Johnson (if you have a chance to take this, or any other class from her, I say snatch it up!) adapted from the Save the Cat series of screenwriting structure nonfiction books.

Can I just say, this was the absolute best way to check structure!! I found a few holes I need to fill (the orange sticky notes) some minor changes (the yellow sticky notes hidden underneath) and rearranged several scenes while I went. If you're a visual person, this is the way to go!

How do you check structure?