Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Editing Saga: Notecards and Indecision

I'll Take Note of That

by Jessica Ralston

Editing Notecards on the floor
My organized mess! Cut scenes in the right foreground.
The great notecard migration has begun! Actually, it started last week, but it's still a work in progress.

I started by putting each scene on a notecard and laying them in order on the floor. There were about 50 cards to start with, which was shocking. It was interesting to see all of these concepts I put in motion but never followed through on. It's given me some really good ideas on where to go and what to expand on. Some of them are so laughable that I immediately threw the cards away.

Now, there are about 42 cards spread out on my spare room floor. Lacking any sort of separators, I've used chopsticks (I'm in China; they're handy) to split the novel into thirds, because for now, a three-act structure looks like it will work the best. Yesterday, I stood in front of the grid and stared at it for about an hour trying to find the holes, and doing a bit of rearranging. The feeling of shuffling and rearranging is oddly liberating. You tend to find story arcs that you never thought would work and then bam, the perfect one coalesces and then you think, "Why didn't I see that before?"

Some of the scenes I've cut I've thought really hard about, in terms of the story. If it moves the plot forward, I'll keep it, but if not, I cut it. There were several scenes where I asked myself if it was absolutely necessary that it be there, and sometimes it was a resounding no. Other times it was, "This might be workable. Let's see how it goes." One thing I've learned: when in serious doubt, cut. It doesn't do to waste time on something you're really not sure about. I kept the card, but for now it's been nixed. 

I haven't made any actual cuts in Scrivener yet. I don't want to make any cuts or start re-writing until I'm absolutely sure of the arc and what needs to happen. There's no use in making a bigger mess of the mess, however, I am aware that sometimes you need to make a bigger mess to clean the small mess. I used this logic as a child when cleaning my room and my mom asked why the room was messier instead of clean. 

My goal is to have the novel ready in time for NaNoWriMo 2012, so I can start on book two of the "series." This also means I have to have an even bigger arc figured out before I head into that. This adds to my list of things I must do while editing. 

It's all very daunting, but I'm so ready to take it on.

Next week: re-writes!

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