Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Uh Oh! I Forgot to Add...

You wanna piece of me?

While reading James Scott Bell's Plot & Structure, I've come across tons of helpful information, some of which has caused me to go back and re-examine what I've already written. One of the key points he makes (in what I've read thus far--Kindle says I'm only at 15%!) is the need for confrontation to be introduced at an early enough time in the novel so the reader can easily identify with him/her/it/them/whatever. So, I thought and thought and thought... Who is my main confrontation in this novel? Besides Hallie's parents wanting her to court an acceptable bachelor and get married, like, now... Who will keep her on edge? Present a problem while she and Adris are trying to find what they're searching for?

Oh, that's right! The police! The bobbies or Peelers, as our neighborly Britons call them. But here's the problem I ran into: I hadn't even introduced them yet, and I'm on chapter 10. Eeep! What to do? What to do? Initially, I panicked. Fretted. Bit off both my thumbnails. I'll have to rewrite the entire story! I thought. Foolishly, of course. Because all it took was this: I went back to the beginning, where Hallie, her 'rents, and the entire town are hangin' out at a local ball/soiree. I then slid in a paragraph where she notices the bobbies milling through the crush. Among them is a detective, who watches  her closely. Almost as if he thinks she knows something deliciously criminal, and he's just waiting to ask her a ton of questions.

Hallie worries over this (on top of the whole bit of courtship and marriage, etc.) all the way into the third chapter, where Adris pops onto her bedroom balcony, unannounced. In the middle of the night. Most scandalous! One of the first things she says to him is, "No one knows you are here... Do they?" So, I added a little tidbit--a memory of the detective oddly staring at her at the ball--followed by the above dialogue. Voila! I've successfully inserted the confrontation--the boogeymen waiting in the shadows--that will follow Hallie and her companions throughout the novel.

Be vewwy vewwy quiet...

Obviously I could have gone on, made myself a Post-It to "insert confrontation toward beginning," because that's what a lot of people do, right? Wait 'til the novel's finished, then go back and do the inserting and fixing when it's time to edit. Problem is, I can't. Well. That may be pushing it. I don't like to. Why? Because I write a fairly clean first draft. I'm one of those people who can't move on unless I've picked the right word, constructed the sentence and/or paragraph exactly how it's meant to be. It's as if my brain won't allow me to just rush through, screw my word choices, sentence structure, etc, as long as I get the story down as soon as possible. Nuh uh. Not me. Won't work. Sure, it makes for a fewer word count every morning, but I'm happier with what comes out on the page.

However, I would like to hear from my fellow authors: How do YOU write? Do you get that first draft down, lickety-split, then go back and worry about rewrites and word choices and making sentences and paragraphs agree? Or do you obsess over all that stuff now, so you're only left with minor editing?

Peace, Love, and Junior Mints,


Bonnie Rae said...

With this current WIP I have been doing mild edits, as you know. For me the main thing is getting it all down on paper then coming back and really obsessing.

In the beginning I really obsessed and it was getting me nowhere.

Andrew Leon said...

I'm like you. Get it right the first time.

Ru said...

I jump around. If I feel like I have to go fix it right that second, I do - otherwise, I write it down and just keep going. You have to do what your gut tells you to do, otherwise you'll just have that thought in the back of your mind while you move forward.

Lynda R Young said...

I write an outline first and try to get the structure right first. Then I write the first draft as fast as possible. THEN I fix the details. Doing it this way I haven't had to worry too much about massive rewrites.

Alyssia said...

@Bonnie I think for a lot of people it's this way. Because, really, the story is never more fresh in your head than it is right now, yeah? I think my inability to rush through & get it all on paper is some kind of side effect of OCD or something. LOL

@Andrew Right on! I knew there'd be somebody in my boat!

@Ru Well said, Ru--do what your gut tells you to do. My mother always said the good Lord puts a gut feeling in everyone for a reason, and you'd do well to listen to it. As writers, we can put this to use in so many areas. Especially when a reader or writer tells us to change something we really, really don't want to. I think that's perhaps one of the hardest for me: learning to say "no." I wrote it this way for a reason. Great insight!

@Lynda Oh ye wonderful Plotter! I bow to your awesomeness. This is a superb way of getting down the bones of a story, and I can definitely see how it would make for less rewrites than pantsing your way through.

Shannon Lawrence said...

I'm sort of mixed. Stuff like word choice I strive for in the beginning. And often, despite trying not to, if I think of something I need to change/left out/whatever I go back in and do it right then so that I can fill in the blanks from here on out. On that, though, if I've had to go back and change something, I will have fleshed it out along the way, but may still need to go back to the space between where I inserted it and where I realized I needed to insert it to fill in the middle.

Anyway, on this, as in most things, it really just depends! There are certain things that take more of an effort for me (romance/mush) that I will write in as I go, BUT I may still need to flesh them out better when I'm going back through, to be sure that they came across in the right way and accomplished what I wanted them to accomplish. I had to add in a whole romantic scene after a Beta reader told me she needed payoff for her emotional investment in the story. So there's an example of where I've had to go back to fill it in, yet what I'd already written had gotten her to the point where she was frustratedly waiting for that payoff, so I figure that's a good start, right?

Alyssia said...

Shannon, I sort of did this same thing with my last novel, Enraptured (the story of the adults, who are now the parents in this current YA WIP). I had forgotten a tiny tidbit that was actually quite large in the grand span of things. Luckily, I was able to go back during edits, insert it here and there, making it believable by the last chapter.

And I'm so glad to know romance/mushy stuff slows you down a peg, because it does the same to me! I'll take a lot more time writing a love scene... heck, just a kissing scene! than any other normal, run-of-the-mill scene/sequel in the book. I just have to make sure it doesn't sound cheesy, you know? Natural, not forced.

Tracie said...

Please update A Scandalous Proposition soon. It has been a while and I really need to know what happens next.

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