Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Focusing questions and progress

I had a brief good start today, and then I got distracted. Anyway . . .

I tried an exercise recently where I just made a list of the thematic and plot questions that my story was struggling with, overall and by section. In the first brainstormed list, I didn't try to focus the questions too much, but bt by this point I know the material well enough that they came out pretty focused anyway.

When I scratched out the questions that seemed like minor concerns, I was left with six pretty clear questions that I could say are the major points. When I studied them, I realized that they kind applied to either part 1 or part 2 or to the book overall, so I labeled them that way. And then it seemed like they each either about plot or theme and broke up pretty naturally without me forcing the issue into three strong pairs. Another way of putting it is that they cover internal and external conflict. They are all about my main character. They are things that every chapter can and should focus on (but don't necessarily yet.)

Next I re-wrote them graphically. I made a big curving line across the page for the whole book and two smaller curves underneath for Part 1 and Part 2. It looks like a wide forehead and two eyebrows. Underneath each arc, I wrote my three pairs of questions.

It felt like progress and my hope is that I have the kind of guidestar that I said I needed in yesterday's post. I feel like I can open Chapter 1 and attack a rewrite of it with a lot more confidence by shaping it to present and start answering the appropriate questions.

Update: This little drawing turned out to be a huge aid in the last year. It finally got me started on my first complete rewrite and guided me in subsequent revisions. Whenever I was dealing with a scene that seemed to go nowhere and do nothing, a glance at this (taped over my computer of course--I even took it on my long trip overseas with me last summer and taped it on the mirror in my hotel room) showed me how to develop the scene to make it work for the plot and character development.

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