From the Beginning (Part 4): The Hardest Part*

For years I’ve taught students about the importance of structure in writing.  “Have a plan,” I tell them.  “Make sure you know what you want to say.  It’s much easier to revise an outline or summary than a whole document.”  For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been re-learning this important lesson as I work on finishing the novel I started in November during NaNoWriMo.

Back in November getting the words written never created a problem.  Finding time to type them into the computer was sometimes difficult, but that was just logistics, no more difficult than finding time to stop by the grocery store or respond to some emails.  When I sat down to write, the words flowed.

A flow of words, however, doesn’t make a novel.  In my case, the flow made a messy blob of a story, one without the framework necessary to stand on its own.  That framework is what I am now trying to go back and insert, and as this semi-effective metaphor indicates, inserting a structure after the fact is complicated and challenging.

So how am I going about inserting this structure?  I’ve gone old-school:  index cards.  Right now I am painstakingly going through the words I have written and the story still in my head and outlining each scene on an index card.  This is painful.  And hard.  And so not my comfort zone.  I like the spurts of writing, the quick flash of ideas, not the laser-like focus on details, not the slow but steady buildup of tension and discovery.  When I tell myself stories, I don’t have to worry about transitions between scenes, or keeping track of the days—hell, I have trouble keeping track of the days in real life—but these things are vital to a novel.

While this is a slow and painful process, I think it might be working.  I found places where no logic whatsoever existed, so I added in scenes to show how action A relates to action B, or why MC #1 (Main Character—remember last week’s dictionary?) is reacting a certain way.  I’m sloooowly figuring out how to build up tension in the story, what kind of questions the reader should be asking.  I’m deciding when to include bits of memory and flashback to help describe the main characters instead of just dumping it all at once on the reader.  When I’m done with this part, I will, hopefully, have an actual story instead of a big lifeless blob of words.

But this part is hard.


*so far


About notthatCindyCrawford

I like books, music, movies, television, sports, food, travel, learning, laughing and sitting around thinking. This blog is a place for me to have fun writing about the things I love. Let me know how I'm doing.
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7 Responses to From the Beginning (Part 4): The Hardest Part*

  1. Good for you and it sounds like you are making real progress. Enjoy the sunshine!

  2. jane says:

    For some reason I am reminded of having to “fit the bonus program onto one page”. That thought makes me laugh, and I hope you laugh too, at that memory. 😉

    Anne K – do you remember? Good times.

  3. Jeff says:

    I can completely relate. I have finished my first draft of about 450 pages, and now I’m reading it all together just as a reader would (before, I move on to a total overhaul). At this point, I feel like my characters are all 2.5 dimensions (just couldn’t quite get them to be 3-D), and while the writing is okay, the storyline is not entirely compelling. Those are the big problems. The small ones, which are easier to fix, are actually far too many to count. Yes. That’s where I am. Good times, indeed. Is 9:18am too early to start drinking?

    • Well, you can use Eastern Time which means it’s after noon and that’s clearly late enough to start drinking.

      Congratulations on actually finishing the draft, though! You’re way ahead of me.

      If you want a beta reader, let me know.

  4. Pingback: From the Beginning (Part 5): The Devil in the Details | I Am Not a Supermodel, and other observations

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