I wrote a fun scene the other day. One of those BIG scenes–when things turn in a different direction for your hero. When your hero turns things in a different direction. It was rough. I knew I still had a long way to go to turn it into the scene it ultimately needs to be (not like I can’t say that about EVERY scene I’m writing these days!). But I’d made one change in how my hero was approaching the moment, and it felt like the right change. It felt like I was putting something important on ground.
So, happily, I printed out the scene & stuck it in my binder and backed up the file. And then I happened to take a look at the page count. (I know, word-count is cooler, but my brain still wants to wrap itself around the placement of scenes in the pages I turn in a printed, published book.)
Okay, sure, it felt good in a way. 145 pages is a nice, little pile. It’s a good way into a project. It’s proof of productivity.
It’s also WAY too far into the story for this scene to be happening. We’re talking YA here–which means 145 pages is, unhappily, over halfway through the book. And this scene does NOT take place halfway through the book. Or it shouldn’t.
No, I don’t have the scene in the wrong place. It’s not that I need to mix things up and rearrange. It’s that I am facing the fact of how much cutting I’m going to be doing in the next draft.
Well, maybe a little.
I’m still writing forward, and I’m not going to stop. But I’m going to do a few things along the way, too.
I’m going to get back into reading YA, and I’m going to take a page from Kelly Fineman’s book of rereading. I tried to find the post I’m remembering, but couldn’t–that’s okay, you should be reading Kelly’s blog, anyway, so you can go hunt it down if you want! But, SOMEWHERE, Kelly talks about rereading, which she sometimes does the minute she’s finished a book. The point, though, is that she rereads for many reasons, but the one that I think is the most important for me to take away is that it helps you see HOW the author is doing something. You’ve got the story down, you just read it, so you’re less immersed in what’s-going-to-happen-next and more available to wow-how-did-she-get-all-that-into-a-four-page-scene. (Or in the case of Kathryn Fitzmaurice’s wonderful soon-to-be-published A Diamond in the Desert, a half-page!) Kelly, if I’m getting this wrong, come slap some sense into me in the comments! ANYWAY, I’m going to pick a few well-done YAs with short chapters and do some studying. Not copying, people, studying. I want to find a structure, a voice, a way of telling that works for me and Caro.
And if anybody has any titles to suggest for this exercise, please drop them into the comments…with my thanks!
I’ve opened up a Scrivener folder in my Draft 3 project called BIG PLOTTING STUFF. So far there are two cards in there: ACCIDENT and QUITS. (Yes, I have more on my actual cards, but you don’t get the secrety things until the book is published!) And I’m going to add some bulleted steps for cause and effect to each of these cards. For instance, you might see this on one card:
Boy mentions party.
C decides to go to party.
Mom says no.
C runs into street.
C is hit by train.
Boy brings chocolates.
C wins Olympic gold medal.
No, that’s not what you do see on my card; again, it’s what you might see. You know, if there were any Olympic games in my WIP. I’m just going to try and get an idea of what leads up to each big event and what each big event causes to happen afterward. Each of those lesser events might turn out to be an entire scene, or they might all get blended into one scene. I don’t know. And I won’t know for quite a while, I’m sure. But it’s going to start me thinking about what’s smaller and what’s more important, and how much time I need to spend on it all.
Oh, you know, this may just be another way to procrastinate, to try and get control of something that needs to remain nebulous for a while longer. But maybe it’s me coming at a tricky project in a new way, applying a process I haven’t tried before. And maybe it’ll help.
We can only try, right?
Do you tend to write long or short in your early drafts? What do you do when it’s time to cut or expand?