Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Old journal entries--Sept. 10, 2007--Back in the habit, whew!

Before I started posting to this blog, I kept some journal entries on paper--logs without the web. Some of those original pieces were never posted, and occasionally I circle back to post some of interest.

September 10, 2007—Back in the habit, whew!

Finally, I had a good day making progress on the book.

Essentially what I did today was to write a summary of my first chapter from memory, and I did it on note cards. Each “move” or episode or important chunk of background or important development in the present went on its own card. I tried to include only the pieces that were needed to move the story forward. Some cards were about an event, some were about a response to that event, some were scene setting.

The goal was to keep each piece on the front of one card—about three short declarative sentences. E.g. “There was a boy named _____ who lived in a town _____. The town had these characteristics: _______. His house had these characteristics _______.” Then to the next card. When I started to flip over the card to the back side, that was a signal that I was going into too much detail or that I was struggling to really understand what that section was about or what about it was essential to moving the story forward.

What I had after about an hour of writing this way was 14 cards—14 paragraphs—summarizing the 18 pages of my chapter one. I did this from memory for two reasons: One was that it felt like that would force me to concentrate on only the essentials of the story rather than trying to jam in everything that I had come up with in the first draft.

Two—the biggest benefit and the whole purpose of this exercise—was that I ended up writing things that were in my memory but NOT in my draft. It’s helping me find the gaps or helping me to emphasize and underline things that are only vaguely treated in the draft. For example, I didn’t really get until this morning when I was writing on the cards that my character has been living with a problem unconsciously up until now and that the story begins with his growing awareness of the problem. I’m now more aware that I haven’t shown in the story how this new awareness is triggered.

What I don’t know for sure now is if I continue with this exercise all through the book or if I stop here at Chapter One and do the necessary rewriting. I think the former, because I think that still so much is likely to change it would be hasty trying to improve the frame when certain walls may have to be moved entirely. So, I think I’m looking at about 15 days or so of the kind of work I did this morning. Here’s hoping it feels as good as it did today.

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