Friday, July 16, 2010

Revision Collision

Revision CollisionSP Heat Map 1

Today is Cut Day!

Okay, for the last two weeks, I’ve tediously analyzed my story with the primary intention of finding what can be cut. So over on the left side is my heat map of every scene in the book. Green is good, red is bad. The first column is “importance,” meaning how important is the scene to the story. The second is “tension,” which is how tense the conflict is in a scene. I have about 10 more measures of each scene which I didn’t bother to chart (yet) but maybe I should.

To give you a better idea, I have these numbers summed up by chapter (each chapter is a 8-10K section of the story):

Story Chart 1

That hump around chapter 4 is a little exaggerated, but you can see the hump at chapter 4 is the end of Act I, the second hump at chapter 9 is the crisis point of Act II, and of course Act III just goes off the chart at the end. Is this more or less right?

Also it appears that the tenser scenes are more important. Or the important scenes are more tense. Hmm….wonder if I’ve discovered something….

Here is the same chart, but by word. (Sorry if it screws up my blog formatting).

Story Chart 2

So you can see that overall I’m doing okay, but individual scenes vary. There is no reason to have a scene with an importance under 8, so you can see where I will start looking at cuts.

So my next step is to look at all those low points and decide what to delete. Out of 119 scenes, I am targeting ~20 for deletion. It may come to more, because it’s easier to delete the smaller scenes. But I need to remove about ~20K from the novel, and my scenes average ~1K each.

Here’s one last chart, the distribution of characters by scene. Red is the POV character of that scene:

character dist

I’m going to count all those up and see who’s getting shafted and who’s hogging the stage. Can you guess whose column is whose?

The last thing I’m doing is writing a first-person account by my main character reviewing the story from her perspective. It’s opening my eyes to what’s important to her, and will help me polish off my keep/cut decisions. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

NaNoWriMo for New Writers

nanobanner

Every November for the past 11 years, hundreds of thousands of writers huddle around their laptops and notepads with a singular goal in mind—write fifty thousand words in thirty days…specifically from 12am Nov. 1 to 12pm Nov. 30. Can it be done? Yes.

The “idea” behind NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is that many aspiring writers talk about writing, think about it, but never actually complete a novel. The challenge is to actually complete a novel in one month. Here’s how it works: you sit down and write 1667 words a day, more if you can. That’s about 7 pages of published text every day. Once November is over, you will have a shiny new manuscript to brag about, and you will join the ranks of those with first drafts of their novels.

Here’s why this works. By forcing yourself to write every day, and write a lot every day, you must be creative. The sheer tension of the exercise translates into your text. Your characters usually face deadlines as well. You must throw them into danger and find quirky ways to extricate them. Your life and your characters’ lives become intertwined, and you start living in both worlds at once. This is total immersion into the world of your novel, where the ideas flow out as fast as you can think them up. You don’t have time to ponder proper grammar or punctuation, let alone metaphor or point-of-view.

Now let’s be serious for a moment. Most of the stuff you will come up with will be crap (whether you write your first draft during NaNoWriMo or not). Characters will show up and disappear. Threads will be left hanging. Scenes will be as empty as a Christmas store in May. Your villains will be as hollow as a later Schwarzenegger movie. Don’t worry about it. Your magical First Draft is simply a milestone on your way to a publishable masterpiece. Consider it as a detailed outline, subject to edits and revisions. The point is that you now have something you can work with, the first step in creating something bigger. You’ve written a novel, and no one can take that away from you!

Despite the fact that NaNoWriMo starts Nov. 1, I highly suggest starting earlier—not writing, of course, but plotting, planning, thinking about characters and conflicts, the general gist of the story, settings, world-building, etc. The more you have ready-to-go before Nov. 1, the easier it will be. Character sketches, backstory, maps, descriptions, scene ideas, whatever you think might make it easier.