Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Threading together a manuscript

I often think of writing a novel as weaving, incorporating various colors and threads into a loom, and watching in amazement as the unified whole forms, stich by stich. This would be a completely imaginary metaphor, since I don't sew, let alone weave, at all. But it makes sense to me, and helps me to comprehend all the disparate parts that go into my writing to make a compact, hopefully beautiful, whole.

A few weeks ago, I received an insightful, detailed, and very smart critique of Project Demo. I had thought to move on to Project Fun in February, but the vision this reader presented me with was so exciting. She got exactly what I had been trying to achieve, yet was also able to pinpoint a way to condense the plot and ramp up the tension. Even though days before I had been eagerly planning to escape Project Demo, I couldn't help but dive into revisions (yet again).

But figuring out how to incorporate these changes has been overwhelming. I can easily imagine them, but figuring out how to make them part of my existing structure is another issue entirely.

So last week, in desperation at tying together all these different threads, I grabbed some scrap paper and started making lists. I listed the highlights of the main character's journey. Then I started in on her friend's arc, then her dad's, then the antagonist's. I ended up with six different plot threads.

Then I made myself a cup of tea and started cutting my scrap paper into thin strips, a strip for each scrawled line. I arranged my plot threads across my dining room table, line by line, completely intermixed.


Is it perfect? No. I had to add several more lines as I thought of them, and I'm sure I'll continue to tweak the structure, and rearrange slips of paper. But I had in front of me a visual representation of my plot, including every major character, turning point, and revelation, from start to finish. All of a sudden, my plot changes seemed tangible, and even better yet, like they could be tackled.


Any tips of your own for tackling complex revision suggestions?

10 comments:

  1. Very interesting technique! I hope it works well for you. Usually my ideas for revising happen while I'm sleeping and I have to get up to jot down my thoughts. Not very thoughtful of my brain to work that way. (Ooh, ignore that really bad pun. It was not intentional.)

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    1. hehehe. It was funny, though! ;)

      And actually, I think it's pretty thoughtful of your brain to sort that out while you're sleeping, rather than slaving away at writing. Wish my brain would make a similar arrangement!

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  2. Fascinating how going back to basics, going back to literally cutting text into slips of paper to rearrange works. It's like piecing a quilt :) Sounds like it's working well for you--keep going with it!

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    1. It is funny, isn't it, Andrea? I kept telling myself that I could just as easily type up the threads and intermingle them on the computer, but somehow having the tactile component felt really important for my thought process.

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  3. I used to weave. Now I write, and I like you analogy.

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    1. Oh good, glad it holds up from this complete non-weaver!

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  4. This actually sounds exciting. I'm always excited when I can figure out a way to re-vision my work. I think this "paste" method may work for you.

    Currently I'm looking at all of my scenes. I'm using index cards and rearranging some things. I'm finding holes, so I'm thinking I may need to add more scenes.

    Best of luck to you in your revision. :)

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    1. Me, too, Karen! I think that's why I end up trying so many methods--it's just trying to get a different perspective on the problem, which is always helpful!

      It is funny how useful a tactile method can be, though. Ugh for more scenes, but great that you're figuring it out! Good luck to you, too!

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  5. No tips to share, but found your process fascinating. Hope it's been helpful. It *looks* useful, at least. :)

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  6. Really, the appearance is all that matters! ;)

    I think it was useful. At the very least, it helped me look at my plot in a different way, which was sorely needed.

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