Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Finished Master Scene List

Last night I finished the Master Scene List. I have always wanted to make such a list, for this and other projects over the years, and it always ends up partially complete. Finally I have an actual Master Scene List that is complete and it feels great.

It is a Word document, a table, with several columns. They list the chapter number, the scene number within that chapter, an ongoing scene number (there are 60 scenes in total at the moment), then a brief description of the location of the scene, followed by a brief description of what takes place in the scene (the action), and finally the word count of the scene. This way I can see how the novel progresses from scene to scene, from location to location, how the action is distributed over various scenes, where a lot happens, where less happens, how long the scenes are relative to one another, etc. It's a great tool for getting an overview of the entire novel at once.

Already in writing it, I came across one major thing I set up and then forgot to get back to later. I had a major character offer to be available to help when things got difficult, and then never fully resolved whether that character shows up later to help the main character or not. I wrote him in at one point, then removed that entire scene and rewrote it without him, then had him visit briefly to offer support, then completely forgot about him when the big moments came about later. So, I've already caught one "plot hole" that needs fixing. I think that was the only major one--others I caught along the way in the ongoing editing.

There were a few other places where I realized a key point should have been brought out by the conclusion of certain scenes to give them more relevance or impact, and can do that in the editing. So, no major flaws. The extensive notes and outlines I did going into this project really helped me have a solid plan to work with, and I was able to keep the work on target even when I changed plot details significantly in later chapters. I knew the underlying framework that I needed to anchor those changes to, so I was able to go with the flow, take advantage of sudden inspirations, and still keep a coherent plot. I know there would be a lot more work to do now in figuring out what happened over the course of the story, had I not done all that planning work earlier. The extensive pre-planning (80,000 words worth!) is certainly saving me a lot of effort right now.

Today's work will center on simplifying the mythology and then looking back at each scene to determine what the goal/complication/resolution were. I'll create a new table summarizing the revised version of the mythology, and another table summarizing the goals, etc., for each scene. Hopefully I can do most of that easily from memory as I look over the Master Scene List, but I'll also check the manuscript as needed to remind me of how exactly I had things play out in the course of a scene if there were many issues or it got complicated.

I started the work on the appendices. I think rather than trying to finish them now I'll leave them as open and ongoing tasks throughout the remainder of the editing process, then tie them up at the end, since the information in them is prone to change. I've already done some work on two of them. I'll work on the third one tonight. I'll comment more on them tomorrow.

It feels good to be making progress in laying the foundation for the editing. Very soon this week I'll be done with Phase One (documenting "what is") and will be ready to start Phase Two (planning for changes I want to make). That'll be similar to the work I did at the very outset, when I planned the novel, did the first outlines. This will be the last major effort at re-examining that work and allowing myself to make any significant changes.



Sue said...

When I read in your previous post that you weren't letting your manuscript sit for several days before editing I did wonder about the wisdom of that. But the kind of manuscript evaluation you are doing seems like it might be a good way of providing yourself the distance you need to edit effectively. And I think that's the key to editing... being able to distance oneself enough to look at a manuscript with fresh eyes.

And just as a side note... I still have answers coming in about whether or not to post excerpts on-line, so I'll get those to you as soon as it looks like I've got all the answers I'm going to get.

Adrian Swift said...

Yes, I understand what you mean. That's a very important point to consider. Maybe I should place a mandatory two-week waiting period on myself between completion of a draft and the start of editing. That would be a good idea. The few days of rest I had before writing the last chapter also served as distancing, although only for a few days, as I really was pulling out of the novel at that point emotionally, before jumping back in to write that last chapter. It was a shorter chapter and I approached the writing of it with amazing clarity and objectivity that morning. There has been a lot on the news lately about sleep, and I think having a rest also helped things to sink in and settle and that helped the cretivity and objectivity both.

Nonetheless, your advice is excellent. The first phase I'm doing this week really is just an objective look at what has been written, simply documenting it, making a list of what the scenes are about in very simple, concise terms, etc. This does help me to objectify the work. Still, I might consider reflecting on the novel, then waiting a week and reflecting some more, before diving in. I'll see how I'm feeling as to whether I'm seeing it with new eyes yet or not.

I have a lot of immediate and intense ideas as soon as I look at the scenes or the short descriptions of them to remind me of what i have written. I see how I could recast a scene in a new light, or change the specific action but keep the plot point, etc. I see ways to make scenes much better. Not every scene, just certain ones here and there. So, I think the quality of ideas I'm having at this time is very high and I want to capture them before I lose them. I won't actually start writing these down and working through them until after this first phase is complete, of documenting "what is", which means probably not till the weekend or going into next week. I'm juggling phase one of this with planning for the next novel.

Since I am looking at changing some scenes entirely, I think I should do some of this work first, and produce the updated version of the draft, then send it around to a few people who would like to read it for feedback, and use that time as a break from it, and then take the feedback and go over it one more time, so in effect repeating the editing process, doing it first on my own, then a second time after receiving feedback.

Thanks again for asking in the forums, and I look forward to hearing what you have gleaned from the responses whenever you are ready to share. And, thanks for your helpful comments here! I'll continue to keep them in mind.