By Leslie Lindsay (image source: www.benzinga.com 5.22.13)
Yesterday I booked a trip to Vegas, so it’s no surprise I have been in my kitchen playing cards. And what the hell does that have to do with the price of tea in China…or writing for that matter?
The trip is to celebrate the wedding of a childhood friend and the cards well, they have nothing to do with gambling and everything to do with something just as risky–my first novel.
Affectionally, I refer to myself a ‘pantser,’ that is someone who writes by the seat of her pants. I don’t plot. I don’t like it. I feel it stifles the creative process, rather than juicing them up (my critique partner claims plotting excites her to delve into the story). I like to deliberate and then get hit with a burst of inspiration I can’t possibly let slip by.
So when my completed Slippery Slope had some holes and a few too many overall words (doesn’t that sound like an oxymoron…how can a story have holes and be too long? Beats me), my critique partner determined it was time for me to “pull out the cards.” As in Tarot cards? Nah…those are in my story, but not in my real life.
I painstakenly sat at my laptop, a stack of pastel colored notecards at my side and went through my manuscript chapter by chapter, almost word-by-word. I assigned a color to each main POV character and then other colors for backstory, section headings, etc. Here’s how the chips fell (sorry, can’t get out of that gambling metaphor):
- Main POV female character is pink
- Main POV male character is blue
- Random tertiary character is yellow
- Female backstory is purple
- Male backstory is green
- Section headings/quotes are white
This afternoon, I spread them out on my kitchen island and studied them. In my hand, I held several cards (for note taking) and a sheet of tiny smiley face stickers.
- Red face = cut &/or severely revise
- Green face = BATP (big-ass turning point)
- Yellow face = I really like this, even if it’s not relevant. And sometimes the yellow and green overlapped. When that happened, I cheered!
- But the problem is, there are a lot of cards that are left blank. Meaning, they have plot points on them, but I am not sure if I like it, if it needs to be cut, if it’s even relevant. Some of those cards are just transition chapters…and do they need to stay? I don’t know yet.
Now the big task of weeding out those chapters with the red sticker. You’d think that would be easy, but not really. It’s not that I don’t want to cut some of my work, it’s just that well–it impacts the flow I thought I developed.
In the end, it working with the cards was a little madening, but it did help to be able to look at things as a big picture and then be able to manipulate them (by moving around my counter top, stopping to scrutinize) and the ones that are crud…well, they just may go to Vegas.
Write on, Wednesday!
For more information, look to the July/August 2013 issue of Writer’s Digest, specifically the article, “5 things Novelists Can Learn from Screenwriters.” I just did. Here’s what the author, Scott Atkinson says:
“A story can be built in scenes. Some novelists start on page one and knock out a daily word count until they type “the end.” But if that doesn’t work for you, don’t worry. It doesn’t work for [screenwriter], either. He never starts on page 1 of a screenplay. He starts with the basic theme and overall journey–what screenwriters call controlling idea–and lets it come together, scene by scene–and not necessarily in order.
He thinks, “What am trying to write about?….You may have some ideas for scenes and you jot them down as quickly as possible, and start to imagine where they might fall into that mauscript/screenplay. And then gradually you start piecing tigehter a collage of those things either on cards or colored pencils, in a notebook, or on a piece of paper, and then you start figuring out what happens when.”
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