Wednesday, May 07, 2008
The sequence of chapters that I've been working on for some time now, which build to and end with the mid-point of the story, are coming along! I'm glad.
This sequence, like so much in storytelling, can be divided into three parts: a beginning, middle and end. I'm 2/3 of the way through now, thanks to a combination of intensive editing and even rewriting.
The key changes center on drawing out the true motivations, feelings and reactions of the characters, and updating the way a pivotal new character is depicted when he is introduced here. He evolved during the first draft, and I needed to bring his earlier representation into line with how I know things will turn out later. Also, the extra emphasis on the thoughts of the central characters has helped in showing character development for the main character. He has to change his mind about something, and that needs to seem authentic.
The impact of these changes has been significant. The story rings true now, and feels tight. It grips you and holds you, moves you right along, which is fitting for a sequence that involves high stakes. The improvement is very noticeable and it's very gratifying to see. (Of course, this is just my opinion; I'll have to wait a while yet until I finish the editing for a beta reader to tell me whether there's any truth to it!)
What remains in this sequence is just to draw the story forward another step, refining the focus down to the point where there is the key decision by the main character which marks the mid-point of the story. Another night or two and I hope to have this finished.
After that, I will follow the existing flow of the story through the second half of the novel as laid out in the first draft, trying to edit where that will do the trick, but also rewriting entire chapters as need be. I don't see changing the basic plot in any significant way. All the changes I've made in the first half have only reinforced the existing plot line. Nothing is competing with it. Fortunately, I'm not being pulled in two directions at once with this story, as I so often have been with other stories.
I'm learning a lot about editing. I'm sure I still have much to learn, but I think finally I really am clued in to what editing should be, what it should accomplish, and how to go about it. I knew these ideas before, but after doing so much of it, I'm seeing these ideas in a whole new light. I feel I'm really "getting it" now.
I also believe that you have to write at least 500,000 words, if not a million, before you really understand how to write. I've heard quotes to that effect, and read them in a number of articles, blog postings, forums and books on writing. I'm really understanding so much more about storytelling, how the various components and parts of a story tie together, and also about language, how to structure it, pace it, develop it, nurture it along to various effects. Practice may never make perfect, but it certainly does generate a considerable improvement in quality over time!
And, again, it always comes down to enjoyment. For me, at least, that is the key. I must enjoy the process, and the results, and have a reasonable hope that Readers will enjoy the results as well. Without that, there really is no point, for me, in spending so many hours on something called fiction.
Best wishes to other aspiring writers,