Friday, March 6, 2009

Radical revisions

First of all, I need to put the time line out of my mind. It's arbitrary and it's making me unnecessarily anxious. Just do the work that needs to be done. It's going to take awhile--longer than I want and longer than I'm predicting. Just keep plugging away a little bit every day.

I'm considering and am probably going to make some significant revisions unlike any I've made before--splitting a couple different chapters in half and moving one of the new resulting chapters to a whole different section of the book. Experienced writers would probably think that's no big whoop--happens all the time--but I have successfully avoided that kind of untangling and shifting so far.

This is coming out of problems with Chapter 12 (f/k/a 13). I've known the problems were there all along but I thought a lot of fancy writing would disguise them. I even put them on a to do list in this blog last month at the start of this revision. The third item, which I've focused on mostly, was cutting down the length. But the first two items were to set up a big part of the plot complication earlier instead of dumping it on the reader all at once near the end and to establish one of the minor characters better early on. I haven't really dealt with those issues.

Those are problems with a lack early in the book. A related problem in Ch. 12 is that there is a sudden excess of stuff late in the book--exactly the stuff needed earlier. Ch. 12 is from that minor character's POV, making him more developed and revealing a lot of plot complication that only he has access to and can report to the reader. It does important work but it does it so late that it feels weird.

So in a way, the solution is relatively straightforward--move that chapter earlier. The material feels less weird that way and satisfies that problem of what is lacking earlier. I've resisted that though because every thread is interwoven with several others. There are present action events in Ch. 12 that need to happen at that late point in the story. How to keep those present action events there and move the other stuff?

It's helpful that a lot of the plot complication stuff--and the stuff that develops and humanizes the character--is not present action but is background and flashback. Those aspects of Ch. 12 snap out of there relatively easily.

Not easily, but relatively so. I've resisted because it's hard, but I think I see a way to do it. That's what I was stewing on and making notes about yesterday and today. The basic idea is this. Pull the "past action/flashback and exposition/character sketch" stuff out of Ch. 12, leave the present action stuff where it is in Ch. 12, break Ch. 8 in half, insert the material from Ch. 12 in that break, resulting in a new Ch. 9 and 10 to conclude Part 1, and write a lot of new material to frame up these elements. For example in this new Ch. 9 I would need a new present action episode to justify going to this character's POV for awhile.

Another side benefit of this is that it gives a more elegant solution to some of the problems in Ch. 8 that I dealt with a couple weeks ago. That chapter was way too long in raw terms and it awkwardly covered a longer period of time than other chapters and awkwardly joined more than one setting whereas most chapters typically center on one setting or theme. This way, I break it up along those two settings so they more resemble the other chapters in length, time frame and thematic unity.

Well, all of this is a lot of speculation. I have notes on it and have drafted some possible new framing material. But I have to get the electronic version in front of me similar to what I did with Chs. 9-11 last week and start cutting and pasting and see if I can patch it together the way I'm imagining. It will involve a lot of new writing, which is intimidating because I really want to be moving forward to line editing by this point, not backward to story development stages.

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