Tuesday, May 9, 2017

How to Write (and Edit) in Layers

I liken writing Bryony to being in love for the first time.

Everything felt exciting and different. I was all over the book, forwards, backwards, upside down, and inside out. Ideas popped up at the most random times (they still do) and thrilled me with their arrival. I couldn't wait to jot them down and find and a home for them.

When I began writing Visage, my three younger kids, who served as beta readers,wanted a chapter at a time. By then, I had already tasted the sweetness of immediate feedback and wanted more.

So I turned to that dreaded tool of my grade school days: the outline.

Except this was an outline with a difference.

Here's how I structure a novel:

1) In crummy prose, I write a sweeping overview of the story.

2) I then decide how many chapters I want. I open a file for each and add the "happenings" for each. I can immediately assess the strength and weaknesses of each chapter and if there's enough tension to carry the story.

3) I write the first sentence and the last sentence for each.

4) I write a first draft of the first chapter.

5) I reread that draft and edit characters, settings, dialogue, mood, foreshadowing, tension, etc. before moving on.

6) With each subsequent chapter, I go back and check for inconsistencies in the above. These are sure to develop as characters and plot take shape. Characters especially may develop a life of their own. When that occurs, either reign them in or adjust earlier portrayals.

7) I cut anything irrelevant. If an element is essential but weak, I find ways to strengthen its purpose.

8) I walk away. I add something to the novel six days a week. But I have one day where I don't. It helps give me perspective.

9) I re-read and re-write again. This helps add three-dimensional layers to the story that first drafts can't do.

10) I have fun!!!

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