Monday, August 28, 2006

Festina Lente

"Festina lente", for anyone not familiar with the Latin quote, means "Make Haste Slowly". It describes my current work on Chapters 4 and 5. I'm so eager to put them behind me and get on to the remaining chapters and to FINISH this editing so I can start SHOPPING the completed manuscript around! But I have to be patient and make my progress at the rate that is necessary to accomplish the work I have to do.

I'm taking time to do more "ruminating" on the story, some of the deeper thinking and dreaming that I really didn't take the time for back in the Autumn when I was dreaming up and planning this story. I took a month (October) and worked nearly full-time on planning this novel then, but still I needed more time to really explore the possibilities -- it's a rich story.

I built a very solid foundation last Fall, and have added to it in the months since, but now that I am editing I know there are some unanswered questions, some areas of potential that I really must explore in order to make this the best story it can be. I'm enjoying this in part, and seeing clearly the importance of it, but still I find myself chronically impatient, wanting to leap ahead when I really just need to walk along slowly and smell the roses along the way, and discover some new things that I hadn't noticed before while traveling the terrain of the story.

The positives have been rewarding. I have enjoyed adding a number of little bits into existing scenes in the first 5 chapters (yes, although I'm focusing on 4 and 5 right now, I still go back over 1-3 as well from time to time). Little ideas that draw out more depth, show more detail of the characters, their situations, their personalities, the choices they have to make or how things impact them. Sometimes it's just a line or two of dialogue, or an extra sentence added to an existing line of dialogue.

In Chapter 4, I've added one whole scene that has been wonderful, and which has grown considerably in what it covers. It's about 2,500 words long now, and adds much depth to the main character, his love interest, and the main plot questions. Both his internal and external plot questions come to the fore in this scene, making it a good transition from Act I to Act II.

The editing is helping me reshape the existing material, and bring it into much sharper focus. I'm really excited to see how sharply the story can be focused. This is the first time I've worked with a 120k-word manuscript, and it's a lot of material to keep in mind and keep track of, but it's not too much. Still, finding clarity when working with so much material is very gratifying. I always know and never doubt I have an excellent plan -- my 12-step outline has worked very, very well for me and has held up over the months no matter how much I rework, tweak or add to the story.

Chapter 4 is almost done now. I just need to go over the new scene a few more times to make it flow smoothly, and to add one more bit of information as part of the focusing I mentioned. That will occur in pieces in a few interactions over the remainder of the chapter, and then come into sharp focus in the very last scene. For anyone not familiar, my chapters in this novel run around 10,000 words and contain multiple scenes (3-6 scenes per chapter). There is really little left to do with 4 except minor tweaking.

Chapter 5 may end up being changed more. I've already gone through it in the editing, but now I have more ideas for what to do with it. There is a lot of potential there and I don't feel I've realized enough of it yet. The last scene was always the challenging one, and adding the poem and quotes to the story has helped me remove the excessive info dump there, but still that scene will need more work. I completely rewrote it several times back in the winter when first working on it, and it may take a few more times to get it right. I see some possible new scenes to draw out more aspects of the overall experience and conflict that this chapter presents in the plot. I look forward to seeing just which scenes I end up with, since some of them could be really fascinating. The conflicts here are related to larger conflicts later, although not directly, but it's important to set up the climax of the book in Chapters 5 and 6.

I finished "Sometimes the Magic Works" and will comment on it in my next posting. Good book!

Well, getting back to work!



JM Snyder said...

Hey there! Good luck with the novel ... I find it better not to edit chapters in a work-in-progress until I'm completely through; otherwise I end up writing and rewriting the same three or four chapters and never finish the book.

I hear you though ~ I'm on the cusp of chapter 18 in my latest novel (out of 20 chapters) and I can't seem to get myself over the edge and into the chapter just quite yet. I need to think it through a bit more, see where I'm going and how I plan to wrap this all up.

Can't wait to read your review of "Sometimes the Magic Works" ~ that's on my wish list of books to get whenever I hit the lottery and can finally buy everything I want from Amazon.

Have a great weekend!

Adrian Swift said...

Thanks for stopping by, JM, and sharing your comments. I'll check out your blog in the near future.

I'm not sure if you read back through earlier postings, but the manuscript I'm editing is already complete. I let it sit for two months, and have been editing it for about a month now.

I know what you mean about going over the same material countless times while in the process of writing it. This slows things down, but in my case it has never stopped me from advancing altogether.

For me, the one thing that has always proven fatal to a manuscript in progress is getting into Act II and then not really knowing exactly how to bridge the middle to get to Act III. I struggled with that for years before finally figuring out a way to approach the planning of the story ahead of time. If you read back to earlier postings, you'll see some of that struggle reflected there.

I also try to limit how much time I spend going over and over the same material, but I don't try to avoid it entirely. Especially in the first few chapters, I find editing and polishing help me to clarify exactly what sort of style and tone I'm shooting for. That insight then guides me through the writing of the remaining chapters.

After revising the first few chapters of a new manuscript, I stop doing so much editing, trying to make progress forward in what becomes a race to reach the end. The earlier editing helps me keep the later writing on track better than I would be able to if I hadn't done it. Then, of course, there is plenty of time to go back through in the editing and work on the entire manuscript.

Good luck with your current novel. Taking the time to consider your options is very important, and will help you create the best ending. Some things can't be rushed!