Saving Me From Myself
I wrote about my reaction. I was impressed…that I wasn’t depressed.
Tonight? I’m five scenes into my revised manuscript.
In between? Two funerals and two how-to-write-books books.
Two family funerals tore my heart out. I had nothing left with which to write. For several weeks I wondered if I would ever write again. But, I came back.
One of the things holding me back was my abysmal lack of understanding of writing scenes. I found Sandra Scofield’s Scene Book, and did lots of exercises. I learned how to balance scenes by dividing my words up into physical beats, setting and description and internalities.
But I still didn’t know how many different kinds of scenes there were, until I read Jordan Rosenfeld’s Make A Scene. If you read her book you will discover suggestions on how to write action, climax, contemplative, dialog, dramatic, epiphany, first, final, flashback, and suspense scenes. I knew these had to exist at an intuitive level, but I was clueless until I read her book.
But, let’s go back to reactions to my first draft. Several big things smacked me out of any complacency I might have had.
First, my story was too long because there are no publishing contracts for first authors with 170,00 word stories. At 120,000 words, I might get by. But that meant cutting over 20% of my story.
Second, I had eight, count them, eight POVs. How on earth could I ever do them justice. First time authors are strongly encouraged to stick with one POV. I compromised. I decided on four.
Third, my story pace was terrible. Why? Because my story structure was wrong and unbalanced. Parts One and Four should have been 20% each, and Parts Two and Three should have been 30% each. I needed to make Part One longer, trim a little from Part Two, and do major surgery on Part Three. I could deal with Part Four later.
Fourth, my ending was terrible. I went from my story climax to the final scene. And…I killed off my villains in the wrong order. Something in us wants our biggest villain to be the last man standing, until she humbles him.
How To Fix All This?
I began to simplify my story by cutting down the number of POVs. I’d started with eight, but I turned my MC’s father, and her closest ally into non-POV characters. And two of my three junior villains were no longer POVs. Two remaining POV’s got more stage time, and some of my scenes seemed far less important than they had before.
And then I went over my scene list, combing it and combing it and combing it. Starting with 84, I trimmed it to 74, and that was even after I added six new scenes, mostly in Part One. I just have to do this to get my word count down. I will see how I do.
And my scene order changed. I saw opportunities for plot twists that I missed when I put my first outline together. I hope it makes my story more interesting, with less explaining.
Will Different Scene Structures Change Anything?
Once I had my epiphany on scene types, I went back through my scenes and tagged them as scene types. I was surprise that, instinctively, I was actually trying to do this. But I was groping in the dark, trying to find my way. I wound up combining a couple of more scenes, breaking another one out. And I rearranged my scene order yet again.
I feel better about my scene list, now, than I have at any point since I started my WIP.
When Will I Be Done?
When I am finished.