Monday, May 16, 2011

6-AM Editing Challenge: Getting Organized

Dear blog friends, I neglected you again. That’s my bad. I’ve been a little distracted.

Last post I said, “I’ve realized how much stuff occurred in the last sequence that needs to be organized before moving on, so I’ll be tweaking those scenes and prepping for the upcoming Dark Moment sequence. Next week, I’ll start tackling it.”
I meant to started tackling the Dark Moment (aka Capture) sequence, but the part about “tweaking those scenes” turned out to be a much bigger project then I thought.

It went down like this.


Trying to plan what I would do next week, I felt like I wasn’t organized enough. I had a funny floating feeling—this always happens when I lose my sense of pacing. Which plot threads needed work? Where were they in their development? Why were Aria’s emotions all over the place? I was pretty confused. I needed to go back and figure why.


Given the weekend, my main goal was simply to identify what, exactly, wasn’t working in the previous sequence. I had a vague idea that it was buried in a certain group of scenes spanning multiple chapters, so I ended up printing out most of the sequence in hardcopy and reading through.

I discovered something really crazy. I’d been seeding the same plot thread over and over again. My characters would come to a conclusion in one scene; then, as if they’d never had the conversation before, they would discuss it in a subsequent scene. Key pieces of the development were missing.

No wonder I felt like I was “floating”—my plot threads were all over the place!

I’ve changed so much of the underlying motivations and conflicts in this draft. Although the bones of my plot haven’t changed much, I’ve really lost track of what’s supposed to be happening in certain places, whether I traced a certain plot thread through, what stage of development I’m in, etc.

As a result, I had a ton of scenes that, on first glance, didn’t need much work; the writing was good, the plot sound. I have discussion and introspection and turning points all in the right spots—but they’re all about the wrong things. I’d completely lost story continuity.

So the question was, what should happen during that sequence? From start to finish, what was the development of this plot thread?

This revelation occurred to me during lunch break. I scribbled a bunch of keywords and prose fragments that held all the essential twists of the plot thread. The next day, I rewrote the scene, adding almost 2K where I hashed out the entire plot thread all in one big brain dump.


I spent the rest of the weekend cutting that scene up into pieces, and plugging those pieces throughout the rest of the sequence. The result was more fleshed-out, more realistic, and had three times the buildup.

Win for the team.

I was pumped, so I completely edited the first scene of the next sequence. And then I realized I didn’t know what to do next. In this sequence, I needed to follow-through on the same plot threads I’d struggled over in previous sequences. What was the next stage of their development?

On top of that, this sequence contains a string of short excerpts from an investigative report, which I’ve had a lot of trouble writing. The original excerpts needed work. I just wasn’t sure what kind.


I decided to tackle the chapter not linearly, but one mental step at a time, working from what I knew through what I didn’t know. (BEST PRACTICE: When in doubt, start with what you know!)

What I knew was how to keep continuity from the scenes in Aria’s POV, so I sat down intending to work on them. While re-reading the scenes I had an idea how to fix the non-POV excerpts. I spent a whole day rewriting those and figuring out where to place them throughout the sequence.

After that, I rewrote the next scenes from Aria’s POV. Finally, I wrote a brand new scene to replace one that I’d cut, tipping readers off to a new plot thread.
At the end of the week? I’d finished the first chapter of the Capture sequence. Not nearly as much progress as I’d hoped for, but still. Good progress.


Now. Week 9.

This is going to be another toughie. Once again, I have to follow through on those same plot threads that I’ve struggled with weeks 7 and 8. On top of that, I discovered one more plot element that suffers from the same continuity errors as my previous sequence. It’s a smaller thread in a sense, but it will be more difficult to fix, because it has to do with my antagonists and affects the climax.

So the goals:

  • Do major edits to fix continuity errors. Gulp.
  • Follow through on plot threads, which get resolved (thankfully) at the end of this sequence.
  • General line & scene edits.

Daunted as I am by my first goal, I have the whole week off from both school and work, so this is the time to do it. To quote Joyce Carol Oates, "One always is or always should be writing."

I know a lot of other people are finishing school, as well. Good luck!

Truly and always,
-Creative A


Ryan Sullivan said...

Lots of luck for the rest of the week!

Read my books; lose ten pounds! said...

lots of work! ha

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