Tuesday, May 31, 2016

A Pantser's Guide to Revision 3 - The rest of the story

Once a pantser has read the full manuscript, it's likely his or her brain will be overwhelmed by a riot of revision opportunities. There's a temptation to try to fix everything at once. It needs to be resisted. Revision is most effective when it's done one layer at a time. Working from big to small helps shape the story in effective ways. It also increases productivity because the writer avoids unnecessary line editing -- there's no reason to polish up a chapter that eventually will be cut.

While it’s not the only option, it usually best for those who write by the seat of their pants, to make their next step adding text to the manuscript.

Note: it's important to engage your imagination fully at this stage of revision and to avoid having the internal editor become too powerful. In a sense, this is additional drafting more than it is revision. With this in mind, it may be necessary to take deliberate steps to reenter the story.

There are two things two look at now. One is completing undeveloped scenes. The other is filling holes that revealed themselves in the read through, adding whole scenes and chapters. So, the first step is to inventory each of these listing those scenes that feel incomplete and making a separate list of scenes that need to be written. For the latter, trying to describe each of the missing scenes in at least one full sentence.

These two lists are important guides for the next step in revision. The easiest job to take on next is filling out the undeveloped scenes. This has a natural advantage because the work has already begun and there are immediate cues that allow the writer to reenter the story.

Filling out the undeveloped scenes probably deserves a post all its own, but here I'll just suggest a few questions you might ask. Does the same have a beginning, middle, and ending? Does the scene have “scene and sequel” structure? Does the scene begin in the right place and find an ending in the right place? Are the passages with description appropriate to the genre and complete enough to allow reader immersion? Does the scene raise interesting questions? Does the scene move the story forward?

As for scenes that need to be written, these are almost completely drafting tasks. Even if you have sufficient text for your genre and you haven’t discovered any holes, don’t skip this step. Adding scenes provides a more deliberate way to write that is slightly different from the original composition work, and this reveals more of the story. As a rule of thumb, I try to list at least ten scenes to add to the manuscript and to write no less than 10,000 additional words. This might be too much for too little for you, but setting an aggressive goal before this additional drafting begins will help to push you into new creative areas that will improve your manuscript.

Now it may be that only two to three holes show up in your manuscript read through. What should you look for in terms of a list that extends to 10? Here are some things to consider:

       Look at your hints list and see it that suggests new scenes.
       See if potentially important scenes are referenced in your manuscript, but haven't been written.
       Take advantage of an interesting character, and give him or her a scene that features their personality.
       Look at the key scenes or story beats within your manuscript and write seems that would occur just before or just after these.

Throughout this step, don’t worry about trimming your manuscript. Just add to the words. The real cutting is best done after analysis for story logic, which we'll look at in the next post.

My first How To Write Fast book will be out later this year. As part of that, I'm looking for opportunities to present seminars, speak, and guest blog. I can be reached at howtowritefast@gmail.com
Want more? This course begins next week.

Lost in the Story

Dates: Jun 6- 27, 2016 Cost: $20
Course Description:
A workshop on reader immersion.
We all know what it’s like when we enter a story so thoroughly we forget the world around us. Getting readers totally engaged is a huge part of success for fiction writers. In this class, you’ll work with the instructor to master the four essential elements of story immersion: creating a good foundation (meaning avoiding mistakes that can distract), sensory details (in the right measure), emotion (especially concern for the protagonist), and verisimilitude. As you continue, you’ll learn to architect your story with hooks, surprises, turns, pacing, and a satisfying ending. The class will conclude with voice, style, and ways to charm the reader.

No comments:

Post a Comment