Tuesday, 14 March 2006

Conquering the beast

Finally! I’ve finished the first draft of the work in progress. I think I’ve been suffering from the dreaded “second-book syndrome”. Writing it has felt a bit like scaling a mountain with only my fingernails in the way of climbing tackle. It has come in way over the word limit – 61500!

(I definitely have a “roll” when I’m close to the end of the book. I wrote almost 14000 words in the last three days. Wish I could do that the rest of the time!)

Now I’ve just got the hack the beast into shape. I find one way to get rid of any extraneous waffle is to think about the focus of each scene. What am I trying to develop? Plot? Character? Theme? Probably a combination of all of these, but one element may stand out.

So, as I edit, I think about the scene and what my characters are thinking, feeling and doing. Are there any lines in there that don’t really add anything? Can I condense two paragraphs of internal monologue into a couple of pithy sentences? (Usually!)

I often give my scenes little headings or titles. I started doing this when I was counting up words to find out where the chapter breaks should be. I would completely forget what scene 23 was, but could remember it was “the party”. So now I use my little headings to help me keep focused on the purpose of the scene.

For example, the current wip has various types of headings:

“Everything’s Fine”
This is a scene where the heroine is pretending everything is peachy while the hero knows she’s putting on a brave face, and shutting him out at the same time. So this title reminds me of the heroine’s state of mind. So the focus of this scene is character.

“First Kiss”
Does what it says on the tin. A plot development more than anything else.

“Pointy shoes and diamond rings”
Sometimes I use an image from the scene. The images are usually there in the first place to emphasise character development or theme and these type of heading just seem to give me a feel for what I want to bring out.

“Sad lemonade” or “Toast and Y chromosomes”
Sometimes I just come up with something silly that sums up the scene to me. I’ll leave it to you to come up with a scenario for these two!