Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Still Building

In my last post I set out a path for completing the planning phase of my new current WIP within two weeks, so that I can begin to write the first draft. I set a goal of writing basic scene descriptions for the entire plot, and then writing detailed scene descriptions for each scene (totaling 30+ pages). I completed the first part, mapping out every scene using the Marshall Plan template, and ended up revising the plot two times in the process. Seeing the opportunity to make even more improvements, I decided to hold off on the detailed scene descriptions until I finish yet another revision of later scenes.

It's a fascinating world, and I truly love these characters. I feel there is more story potential here and I need to slow down and spend more time developing it. I've already spent a few hundred hours planning this story over the past 3 years but there is just so much more I can see doing with the characters and events. The challenge is to accomplish these things in a limited amount of pages and point-of-view characters. It's an epic fantasy novel, and keeping it tightly woven is a challenge. I'm having a lot of fun with it, and a lot of success.

A key effort has been to weed out the "new stuff" that I kept throwing into the plot. It's much better to re-use the same "old stuff" that's already there. This makes a considerable difference in Act II, which is the middle half of the book. A lot happens here. I need to focus on a few events and their lasting impact, and allow the characters time to deal with these things in meaningful ways. For instance, instead of introducing yet another new character, I've found ways to re-introduce existing characters. I even brought one character back from the dead! What a surprise to me, and no doubt to the main character. It is fantasy, so this sort of thing is quite doable; the strength it adds to the story is readily apparent. Giving the characters time to deal with things does not mean adding a lot of reaction scenes -- it just means that the new action scenes follow and build on existing situations rather than representing a constant departure for new, unrelated adventures. Things unfold, one to the next, in a direct and relevant fashion, rather than as a hodge-podge of new things thrown at the characters.

I'm now making my third revision of Act II, each time tightening, narrowing, further developing what's already there. It's greatly improving the story. I've spent a lot of time on it these past two weeks and am spending a lot of time again this week. I won't worry about the self-imposed deadline of two weeks, which has just passed. As long as I'm working hard and making such solid progress, watching the story improve visibly in front of my eyes, I have no reason to rush ahead. I'll give myself the time I need to complete this important work before solidifying it with the detailed scene descriptions, the final task before I'll be ready to begin the first draft. This added effort now will help make that draft much easier to write, and should considerably reduce the macro-level editing to follow.

Wish I could share details, but I guess the best way to do that is to wait until the final draft is complete, when I can share the whole story!

Working hard and loving it,


Saturday, August 07, 2010

Progress with Planning

Just a quick update on the planning work for my new WIP. This past week I reviewed prior Snowflake planning notes and tweaked the characters' perspectives based on how they've developed in my thoughts over time. I also tightened the parameters (number of POV characters, word count), completed a preliminary scene list for the entire novel using the Marshall Plan, and have done "Stage 1" basic scene descriptions for the first half plus the ending. I have about 20 scenes in the later second act left to map out, then I'll have to step back and take a look at the whole thing before continuing to the next stage.

This marks the first time that I've actually followed the Marshall Plan as-is throughout the entire novel. I usually do my own thing based on the Marshall Plan, but with more POV characters and with a less-than-true order to the scenes. This time I wanted to stay within the limits of the Plan and see how it turns out. I like it!

It's amazing how tightly the story is now plotted. I saw opportunities to consolidate scenes, handling more than one item of business in the same scene. I also was much more aware of the impact of POV, and that's certainly a good thing. Plotting this tightly is hugely beneficial. I can always add a scene or two here or there later on if I feel it is needed. I know the story well and know I can't represent everything in the novel. Some of it is too peripheral, even if it is interesting in its own right. I'm keeping it focused and the extraneous clearly stands out.

I'll complete the basic scene descriptions in the next day or two, then during the coming week I'll go back over them and write the "Stage 2" descriptions, 30+ pages featuring a paragraph or two for each scene summarizing the gist and including any tidbits of dialog that I know already, certain key lines that must be said at certain key points. Hopefully by the end of this coming week the slightly-more-detailed scene descriptions will be complete, and then I'll take time to rehash, review and polish the plan yet again.

Feels good to see such concrete progress!