Thank you all for joining me last week for 'Smarter Than You Thought Week'. I got some positive, encouraging responses from this, so I might have to do it again :)
Today, it's back to the editing. I expected to be done with this particular stage a week ago. However, we all know that the best stories have a mind of their own, and sometimes we just have to go with that. Turns out Jesscapades had a mind of its own - but I'm glad about this. I'd rather have a story with too much personality than one with no personality at all :)
So, what does Stage Three Editing involve for me?
One word: Outlines.
I've done the pre-think, and I've developed some focus. I've reread the story, and I know what I'm actually dealing with. Now, somehow, I have to match up the rosy-tinted vision in my head with the sometimes horrifying reality.
I'm a tactile and visual learner; I like things that I can see and touch. So I work best away from the computer at this stage, rather than on screen. I can see the whole story at once in a way I can't when I'm limited to the 15 inches of my laptop's monitor, and I can pick it up and hold it, move pieces around, like they're a jigsaw.
And in a way, that's exactly what I'm doing: I'm taking all the puzzle pieces that I have, and I'm trying to figure out not only where they go, but which pieces actually belong to this puzzle I'm creating, and which pieces have accidentally gotten mixed up from other boxes.
The way I do all this is to use either index cards or post-it notes. Last time I used post-its stuck to paper so I could transport them around with me; this time, I started out doing the same (using plain coloured post-its for now), but discovered that the most convenient place to do all this work was actually on the back of one of the old leather lounge chairs! :D I'll take photos for you all later this week ;) The post-its, alack, are el-cheapo, so didn't stick too well - but half index cards with a bit of surgical tape worked like a charm ;)
Each card has on it a one sentence scrawl describing what happens in that scene, in as near an approximation of The Sentence as I can be bothered to create. I also put at the top right the initial of the POV character, and - because I'm visual - I colour code them.
For me, this is the best way to track the arc of the story - to see where things don't make sense, to see which scenes need to go before others, and to figure out which ones just aren't doing anything for the story.
For two weeks, I stared out the outline, knowing a lot was wrong, but not knowing how to fix it. Slowly, slowly, I elimated a scene here or there, tweaked a sentence, added a connecting scene, and generally tightened the whole thing up. Using this method, I fixed the first half of the story.
And this is where I was reminded of an important fact:
In writing, it's not so much about having a set process that you follow every time to get results; it's about having as many tools for approaching the job as you can, so that when one doesn't work, you have another right there in your box to pull out and apply.
Because, you see, this time the index card line-for-scene method didn't work for me. I had to go one step further. And that's step four, which you'll have to come back on Wednesday for %-) Bwa ha.
So, does that mean that the line-for-scene (l4s) technique failed this time? Absolutely not. It worked 50% of the way. I fixed the first half, and realised just how much I really could get rid of; I clarified a lot of issues - and more to the point, it allowed me to pinpoint exactly where my issues were. I could only move on to step 4 because I'd spent so long working on the outline of the story - so all in all, I'm glad I did it.
Seeing the story all laid out in front of me let me feel where the holes were; let me realise what was missing; and let me know what issues I had to solve (in terms of character motivation) before I could move on and pronounce the outline successfully replotted.
And really, I'd count that a success :)