What do you do if you are struggling with a process and, in one moment of clarity, realise that you’re not making progress? Instead you are hammering on in the same fashion hoping that this time, this time, it will have spectacularly different results?
I currently have five thousand words and four measly scenes for my ‘edited draft’ of the novel, one of which is the opening which I’m still not happy with. What am I doing? I have no idea. I’m scrambling around in the dark again hoping that my eyes will adapt rather than just reaching out to switch on the damn light.
I need a new plan of action. I need achievable goals that are measurable. I need to find a way to see the bigger picture rather than focus just on scene-level. I knew this when I started November, but I’ve been sucked back into the rewriting phase. I’m spending time on sections of the novel that might not even stay. I’m writing new scenes that will, in all likelihood, have to be rewritten because I’ll miss out some significant element of the plot, or the theme, or an aspect of foreshadowing.
In short, I’m doing it wrong.
Last week I started a beat sheet in Excel (see below) to keep track of all my scenes, but as I don’t seem capable of moving past the third scene this is beginning to seem fruitless. So it’s time I stopped messing with the details and start to fix the big picture instead. Radical new approach needed.
So, goals for this week include:
- Identifying the key scenes for the first quarter section of the novel
- Determining how each of these scenes contribute to characterisation, theme and purpose of the overall novel
- Ensuring each scene has a valid goal, motivation, conflict and disaster (using beat sheet above)
- Breaking down what I already have for these scenes from the current WIP and placing them correctly
- Marking those sections that need to be rewritten
- Sketching out scenes that need to be rewritten (to include foreshadowing and key aspects identified above)
I need to find a system of revising and editing that works for me. I keep falling back on rewriting because I find the writing phase comfortable, and even though I know my standard of writing is higher than it was, the act itself isn’t improving the overall work. This is what November was all about: trying out methods and approaches to editing so that I could start to make sense of the process.
If I don’t move on from the first few thousand words of my novel it will never be finished; which is often the same problem that can arise when writers constantly revise as they go. They end up only ever writing and rewriting the first part of their story. I need to make a complete pass through the whole novel during this editing phase, not just tinker with the beginning.
No more rewriting scenes over and over. I need to fix the plot structure and address the key scenes before I start refining them. So here goes. Let’s hope I’ll have more to show for my November by the end of the next week….