Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Breaking, re-working & editing

The good part of NaNo is getting the rush of new words on the page.

The bad part of NaNo is often sifting through the mess when November is over and done with.

Yesterday I went through Project #4 and took a good hard look at what was there.

One of the main reasons I stopped writing (other than going away) was I had reached the end of the present-day timeline, yet still had about 1/3 of the party 6 months earlier to fill in, plus the night Jackson died. I was alternating scenes, but wasn't alternating them frequently enough, and I didn't have time to go through the story and move a bunch of the scenes around, and it felt too weird to suddenly stop alternating scenes and write out both nights in one big uninterrupted dump.

So that's what I did yesterday :) I broke large scenes up and moved a ton of them around, pushing the party 6 months ago way further up in the story and now I have a ton of small present-day scenes on their own into which I can alternate the two past time-lines.

It does annoy me that doing this wrecked the flow of the story in a bunch of places, for example, in one set of alternating timelines, I was using warmth/cold as conduits to move back and forth between the MC stuck in Triss' car and the whole bankrupt-moral-rationalization behind stealing from Jackson and from others.

Moving those scenes around completely destroyed that.

But it also coincidentally lined up some scenes in new ways that I hadn't considered.

Like the beginning/end of these two scenes:

Her mouth was only a few inches from mine and I could feel her warm breath racing across my skin and electrifying every single tiny hair on my body. “You know I only need you.”
“I’m tired,” Triss says.
It’s been about twenty minutes since she leaned into me. Twenty minutes of her rough breath beating warm and repetitive against my skin.

Yes, this need editing 'cause the wording is far too repetitive, but those scenes used to be really far away from each other, and although they worked in their original locations, I think they work far better now. Triss' breath against the MC's skin ties these scenes together, but in each place, the emotion/tension/reaction of the two characters is drastically different.

I could mourn all the great points where the flow got broken, I could even be obstinate about it and leave them how they were originally (after all, that would be easier in a lot of ways), but in the end, I think when you ruthlessly break up a story, you end up finding things you didn't know were there and it opens up directions you hadn't necessarily considered before.

Sometimes the best thing you can do for your story is to smash it to bits and re-examine the pieces.

For all those places where I *broke* the good flow, well, I figure if I managed to write good flow in the first place, then I certainly should be able to modify the beginnings/ends of each scene to re-create the kind of flow I want.

I know there isn't one definite way this story has to be written, and I find when I break a story and put it back together again, it's better and stronger than the original was.

So don't be afraid to be ruthless.

In my case, I had written myself into a corner and I needed to break the whole thing apart to make room to write.

How about you guys? Have you dared to re-read your NaNo stories? Any major problems that look absolutely terrifying?


  1. I didn't participate in nano so I have no story to re-read. However, I can sympathize with the type of editing issues that you are finding. Just be thankful we have a powerful tool like a word processor that makes it easier to move huge chunks of text around and then to scratch/rewrite others.

  2. @ Michael

    Heh, the worst editing-hell I got myself into was writing a plot-loop into a story... as in, plot point A led to B, which led to C, but the way the story worked, it only made logical sense if point C happened before point A.

    ...that... was a battle :)

    I'm also thankful that I now use all Mac software instead of relying on Microsoft to corrupt and delete my data :) It has saved my sanity more than once ;)

  3. Sounds like you have this revision/editing thing down. I am so giving you a virtual High Five for owning the story :-)

  4. Hahahaha! Thanks, Angela :)

    ...though a swift kick in the rear might be more effective ;)

  5. I haven't even opened my NaNo document. Maybe in about March ... I'm too busy trying to edit something so I can send it to this excellent carpenter I know :-)

  6. @ Sarah

    hahahahahaha! I'm looking forward to it ;)

  7. I plan to re-read in the new year; I already have a file of notes on things that have to be changed and altered for the draft to work. I had some of those notes at the half-way point, which made finishing the story a little odd since I was well aware that certain plot elements I was writing wouldn't exist at all in the next version. I figured it would be marginally saner to NOT being using revised plot ideas half-way through the draft.

  8. Oh, alcar... aren't you already busy writing the sequel? Seriously, man, I've never know anyone else to write as many words/drafts as you do!

    ...so, does that mean I'll get to read it sometime in Feb/March then after the re-write?

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