Monday, 4 July 2011

Conflict, Language, Action: Using Scrivener for Revision

I've been in a writing drought for the last couple of weeks. Tiredness has been high, time limited and brain function correspondingly addled. I've been traveling (see post about Belgravia), running three different events and turning the august age of 33. When I try to switch on my laptop, I stare blankly at the screen. Twitter is about the only thing I have the concentration span for.

But enough is enough. I need to write and I need to critique. I just need a little bit of focus.

Some time ago, I exported Merely Players from Scrivener into Word. It's been through four revisions and is slowly becoming more polished. Unfortunately, it still needs more work.

Areas for Improvement

1. Scenes
I need to analyse every single scene to see if it's working. I'm going to judge it on the following criteria:

  • Goal

  • Conflict

  • Disaster


  • Reaction

  • Dilemma

  • Decision

There's a great, if terrifying, essay on analysing and writing scenes on Randy Ingermanson's Advanced Fiction Writing site. I intend to put it to good use.

The problem is, Merely Players is an overwhelming sea of 98,000 words. I need to break it down. Enter Scrivener, stage left. I'm going to re-import my novel into Scrivener scene by scene, writing a short summary for each - a little like the afore mentioned Randy's snowflake method - but in reverse.

2. Tension and Conflict
I need to tighten and intensify the tension and conflict in the story. Those black moments need to get darker. I want them to be midnight hued and edge of the seat gut-clenching. I've had some great advice from Andrea on that - on how I could challenge my protagonists more. Somewhere along the way I wimped out a bit. I glossed over some scenes in my rush to reach to the end. If I spend a bit of time on this, I think I could achieve some real emotional depth. Some recent posts tension include: The Alchemy of Scrawl, A Memory Theatre and Writing Fiction Right.

3. Language
I love prose which has a touch of poetry; rolling sentences adorned with richly evocative images and expressed with elegant precision. When I've written a sentence like that, I know it. It's as satisfying as sticky toffee pudding and vanilla ice cream. I salivate, I sigh. I love writers who are good at doing this (e.g. Elizabeth Goudge, Laura Kinsale). I want to be one of them. But it's so easy to get lazy and to fall back onto well used tropes. I want my characterisation to be bone deep; for every description and action to reflect the subject. So I am going to rake through my words and reassemble them. I'm going to think.

Breaking it down into Scrivener should help. I can tackle each scene to make it more precise, more conflict ridden and much much richer. I can set myself a scene a day and then perhaps, it won't be so challenging. Only 90 or so scenes to go!

How do you improve your writing? How do you motivate yourself? And when do you lay down your pen and stop revising?


Andrea said...

My plan once I'm done is to go through each scene and note down the character development and reactions. Then compare the list to my character arc, if it doesn't match or is inconsistant then I'll change the scene.

Then I'll go through from start to finish checking for any instance of telling, or repetition. I also want to strength my narrative voice.

And once that's all done, I'll put it to one side and start the next one. When I'm half way through the next book, and it feels a long way to the end, I'll have a break for a month, and I'll pick the old one up and go through it again.
Then I'll see. There's no rush to send it off, the last book I couldn't wait to, but once you've hit send it is an even longer wait, and in that time you learn more and think 'oh i wish I'd put that bit in, or changed that bit.'

Meg McNulty said...

Sounds like a plan! That's pretty much where I'm at at the moment too. Do you have any reading you would recommend on character arcs?