Arranging Scenes / Events / ?

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Arranging Scenes / Events / ?

Postby PaulaO » 03 Oct 2012, 12:20

So I'm working on The Awakening, the sequel to To Sleep, and I'm having a problem.

With TS, it was easy to organize. There was a definite line between the two parts. EleineB gave me some good advice (she rocks) and I shortened the first half. Again, it was easy because there was that line. Not just between the two parts, but between the various events that had to happen.

But with TA, it's not easy at all. For one, it's not divided into two parts. At least not yet. And there's some events that have to happen in order to introduce characters and events in their lives. Problem is, the damn thing just keeps growing! I stopped writing it at about 126K and did some trimming. Ended at 128K. Seriously. So I did some more trimming, moved scenes around to see if doing some things sooner would work. Stopped when it reached 132K. And I thought I had them all going nicely and would shorten it as I went but then I realized that an event I moved to earlier had been neglected for too long and now wouldn't work. But it has to happen so....

Anyway, here's my question: how do y'all lay out your scenes (chapters, whatever) so that they happen in a flowing order? Does it just happen or do you plan it out or do you fine tune the arranging during the edit?

I'm to the point I am about to take out index cards and make one for each scene/event/whatever.

Just rambling here as I think it out.

One thing with TS that I got rid of was the sheer number of folks. Not main characters, but just that many Humans. And now, TA is dealing with the MC 'awakening' her people. I am bogged down with details! How to approach them, convince them, house them, heal them, blah blah. This is her journal and I am very tempted to say, at about the middle, "Sorry I've not written much in this but it's been insanely busy!" then catch the reader up. Hmm....
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Re: Arranging Scenes / Events / ?

Postby ElaineB » 03 Oct 2012, 14:02

PaulaO wrote:EleineB gave me some good advice

You should see if you can get her to join the forum. ;)

With nothing published for proof of any success, my method is probably not recommended. My novel was written shotgun style. Scenes came to me and I wrote them down. I had a vague sense of where they'd go, but it came to me in no particular order. Ooh, this is cool...scribble, scribble. What if...scribble, scribble. So draft one was in three long parts. For draft 2, I broke it up into chapters and kept a table of what was happening in these chapters so I could keep track of things, especially among the different storylines. I had tons and tons of backstory. All fabulous, of course, but it clogged the flow. So for the next draft I took it all out figuring I could put it back in later and focused on getting the scenes in their proper order--A to B to C, etc.

Most of the backstory I ended up not putting back in. At some point I decided the whole thing was taking too long so I truncated the timeline. Then beta feedback made me delete a whole chapter because it couldn't happen the way I needed it to, so rather than squish the story to fit my need, I just cut it out. A good bit of advice from my nonfiction writing days: If in doubt, cut it out. And if a question gets raised, you don't have to answer it. Better to rewrite so the question doesn't come up. Good when you have word constraints.

Once I had everything in order, I worked on transitions and fleshing out scenes. A beta had pointed out the words I overuse ("though" 107 times and "but" 848 times--and she highlighted them!). I went through and found so many others to cut that I was able to add whole scenes. I made a list and went through it: I, that, look, like. Awkward silence appeared eight times! What was I thinking?

Still, every time I read it, I find plot holes and flaws. I toyed with an outline, but that didn't last long. I think the table worked well, and I wrote a timeline from my MC's birth (actually, her mother's birth) to significant events, people she met, jobs she had, and when I got to when the novel takes place, down to month by month and week by week. Even dates: I needed to know what day of the week a character's birthday was in 2004, etc. So I was able to refer back to these documents as I wrote and moved things around.

I also kept a sort of journal of my process and angst as I worked. So that if I read something that didn't make sense, I could write about that and work it out. So I now have a Notes document that's 24,000+ words of pure drivel.

You probably don't want to worry about length yet. Just get everything down. Get it in order, then you'll probably be able to see parts that are superfluous. I found whole scenes, that while lovely, did nothing for the story. Even the backstory, which is really good and interesting, just ended up not being necessary to telling the story. I'm sure I still have stuff in there I don't need, that might even be really bad.

So how's that for rambling?
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Re: Arranging Scenes / Events / ?

Postby Baker » 04 Oct 2012, 07:07

Good rambing, Elaine. (Are you the twin of EleineB?)

We all work differently, P. Yes? I write on-the-fly but linear. I don't go back and tinker with plot development, sub-plots, dead-ends, or redundant scenes until I have a complete draft. Then I read what I've written and pick out of it the real story and which scenes contribute, which (if any) I need to add, which can get combined, and which to delete. It's in the writing of the second draft that the book takes real shape for me. It's at that stage I pay attention to the structure of the novel and write to that. I agree with Elaine: you have to be ruthless. If it doesn't add materially and significantly to the story, then delete it. No matter how important you think some background details, an extra piece of setting, or a neat piece of twiddly bit, you have to ask yourself: does it further the story I'm telling? Same with subplots: is each and every one of them necessary? Would I lose anything by pruning? If it's just fleshing out, then you need to grit your teeth and hit the delete key. Remember, you are telling a story not describing the days of someone's life in minute detail. You're selecting the scenes and details for your reader to most effectively convey that story. Those extra bits you might be tempted to keep because they add depth to your world might actually be putting the brake on the story momentum you need to build to keep the reader turning the pages.

This is where I think those who write short stories have the edge over novelists. They are used to working to word count limits. There's no place for rambling and cramming in the cool bits you've thought up. Every word has to add to the story.

One way to analyse your story is to write one sentence for each and every scene in which you record what its purpose is. When you have done that for the book, you should be able to read through it and see where you've been a tad indulgent (if you have) and wandered away from the story.

As for general flabby wordiness, you can probably count on knocking off ca 10% from the word count in the last pass through simply by deleting extraneous words, phrases, and sentences.
Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities ~ Voltaire
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Re: Arranging Scenes / Events / ?

Postby Andain » 04 Oct 2012, 12:00

I like to go in order if possible, which is why I tend to start with a very rough outline of sorts these days (index cards seem like a great idea... I generally just use a txt file or a notebook. For the next project I've got planned, I drew up an old school timeline-type drawing, and filled in the blanks with major plot points, etc.). For Captive, I didn't start figuring out what went where until pretty late in the novel, and I managed to fix everything by later going back and heavily reediting, but I really wish I'd organized it a bit more beforehand. But yeah, I dunno, I guess I've always been a visual kinda list person, so making little bullet point lists of what goes where seems to help. :)
Captive by the Fog - My debut novel, now available from Musa Publishing.
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Re: Arranging Scenes / Events / ?

Postby PaulaO » 05 Oct 2012, 07:21

ElaineB wrote:
PaulaO wrote:EleineB gave me some good advice

You should see if you can get her to join the forum. ;)


lol :whistle:

Sorry, friend of mine spelled hers Eleine. I think everyone else does, too!

I think part of my problem is I stopped before I reached the end. If I had continued on, I'd have had a goal to work toward. Even if the story was horribly bloated, I would know what didn't belong.

I've given myself permission to skip over the details of what they are doing because it has nothing to do with the story, not really. I asked Lorna if she thought it would be cool if she were reading a book that was a journal and the MC said "Sorry I've not updated this in a while..." and she said yeah, that was fine. But she'll often accept it from another author but not from me so we'll see. :no: lol

I don't do outlines. I have tried, but I just can't. And yes, Elaine, I, keep a huge World Build file, too. Dates, numbers, names. Notes. It can be huge. I have another file of cuts, meaning scenes I cut during edits or whatever. Sometimes, they can help me get re-started or I can use something from them later.
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