Saturday, August 22, 2015

How to Revise a Novel—Step 3

In Step 2, we looked at how to use Larry Brooks' 4-part system for revising a shrunken version of the novel. Today we'll talk about utilizing the work you did there to manage a revision with multiple storylines.
4 story parts / 4 colors
1. If you haven't done so yet, make a note card for every scene. Yes. Every scene. Just a sentence or two summarizing the key actions. Number them, too--this makes it easier when rearranging them.

2. Color code cards the same way you did with the manuscript for the four parts of the Brooks system. They should match; same color same code. I colored the bottom edge of the card so that I can still utilize the cards another time with a different code.
6 story lines / 6 lines of cards
3. Separate the cards for each story line into multiple lines in a way that chronologically follows each line and allows you to look at each separately to see what is there and what is missing. This is like looking at the transparencies I made, but on a scene-by scene-basis. Because I believe that nearly every scene must offer at least two ways to forward the story, it meant making duplicate cards so that I could keep the lines moving and not have to juggle overlapping cards.

4. Just like you identify the three plot points and two pinch points in the overarching story (You did this in srep 2) you will do this for each subplot.

5. Every scene that you have identified as a plot point or pinch point will now be pulled from your deck of note cards. You will then arrange these in chronological order in one timeline--all subplots together. (My theory is that you need to know the chronological story first, even if you wind up not telling it chronologically.)
My story made most sense when the cards were arranged like this... the beginning in the upper left corner and then end in the lower right.
6. Next, go through and mark the 4 scenes that you feel are the most emotional or dramatic in the entire story (not in each separate story line). You might expect that these emotional and dramatic scenes will be plot- or pinch-points, but if you follow Brooks' definitions for them, these points may be smaller moments, so you might find yourself pulling additional cards.

Place those chronologically within your timeline of cards and then step back to analyze.

Where did the most emotional and dramatic scenes show up in the manuscript? Are they grouped together at certain points or spread out throughout the whole novel? How do these emotional/dramatic scenes build up to or result from the points in #5? If you can't identify that, these may be the darlings that need to be killed that we always speak of. They might be distractions that pull your story and plot off topic and cause you to stray.

Once you have arranged the chronological order of each point, you can develop scenes that lead up to and spring from those points. You might find that your four favorite scenes are part of that. Other scenes you've already written may be, too. You'll cut some because they don't add and you'll need to add some because you were missing critical pieces that led up to the points to make them happen.

And you should feel pretty good about how your story is working. See? It's not formulaic. It's just what a story needs.

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