The second half of this year has been an experiment in big picture thinking.
It started with my discovery of John Truby's The Anatomy of Story. Then I attempted to plan out Project Fun, going so far as a scene-by-scene outline. Now I'm back to work on Project Demo, and once again employing some big picture thinking.
I've worked this way before, but never systematically. You see, I'm a total writer nerd. When faced with an overwhelming life problem, I tend to journal solutions. And I approach my novels the same way. When something isn't working, I find myself thinking, "What if I just wrote it better?" So I rewrite, and rewrite, and rewrite some more. I try to revise a novel by making each line poetic and concise, streamlining description, conveying characters' motivations and personalities more strongly. But some things can't be fixed by better writing. What if a character is acting out of character? What if some plot point just can't happen the way I've described it? Better writing, though it does make my text pretty, won't save my novel. No matter how hard I try.
So lately I've made a scene by scene outline of Project Demo. I've summarized my main character's changing emotions from scene to scene. I've made a list of all the magical elements, from beginning to end. It's time consuming setting up these outlines, but I can do it while watching football. The time-saving part is then working from the outline to figure out what problems lie in the text. Much easier with a line or two than a whole chapter. Plus, I can use the outlines to check overall story arcs, transitions, plot. Only once I have clarified my text's problem, and developed a solution, do I allow myself to rewrite.
Am I saving time? I'm not sure. But the writing feels more systematic and efficient, and less like fumbling around in the dark. Returning to Project Demo, I've discovered the most complex and lengthy novel I've ever written. I do believe in it again, but I think I need to try some new tricks to pull it all together.
What revision techniques do you employ? Or do you somehow manage to hold everything in your head and just write?