Monday, November 5, 2007

Move on or keep working on Chapter One?

Monday morning--Something told me over the weekend to stay with Chapter One even though that would mess up my plan to finish a chapter a week. That plan is arbitrary and really about psyching myself up more than any good thinking about what's really needed.

Still, I don't want to get bogged down here. So I'm resisting the impulse to do too much work on Chapter One. After my work this morning, the way I'm thinking of it now is in terms of "development." My job at this point is to further develop the story--scene by scene. It's not to fix problems or even connect all the dots or to make it logical and certainly not to line edit.

For example, in my Chapter One there are several big chunks of exposition that I have to "fix" at some point--cut them, trim them, make them more interesting. I don't know. Frankly, as long as they are there, you can't call this a very well-written chapter. So the temptation is to fix them now and assure myself that I can write well and that the story will be good and interesting before going on to the next chapter.

But I'm trying to take the attitude that most of those fixes are better addressed in the next round and I have to let them sit for now. Instead I only concentrate on the parts of the exposition that are crying out for more instead of less--where they hint at an something important that didn't really get fleshed out before.

Exposition is just one example. The more typical thing is scenes that have dead ends without accomplishing anything--what I've previously described as "dead stars" vs. "supernovas." Those need to be developed into supernovas.

Another example is any relationship that's introduced--really anyplace where two people spend some time together. In most cases I have the characters going through motions without much feeling or sense of history or sense of being connected to one another. What do they feel about one another? I need to bring some intensity into the room. That's developing the story.

Related to that is something that I'm choosing to ignore for now--introducing the characters. A few of them suddenly appear on the scene, referred to by first name like they are familiar, without their background info. It's been written somewhere, but as I move things around, the logical order gets messed up. Fixing that is not development, and right now fixing that would just be avoidance of the important work.

So today, I spent about an hour and a half, read through the chapter, diagnosed several problems and named the three specific things that fall into the area of development. I estimate it will take about two hours of work to do that work. And THEN I'll move on to Chapter Two.

So . . . "rewriting" at this point is looking like this:

  • Open the computer file with the chapter and save a new copy.
  • Go through it looking for scenes that need to be developed. About 5 pages of review and about 500 words of new material per hour.
  • Make notes about other problems need to be fixed.
  • Go through it to spot the essential things that need to be developed for the rest of the book to make sense.
  • Write those.
  • Approximately 10-12hours per chapter. Which could be about one chapter/week with more stamina than I have right now.

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