Wednesday, 8 November 2006

Staying focused

Right. I said I’d post about what I did to tidy up Make Up to Break Up (Magic Hour) when the revisions came in. If I leave a note about it here I shall be able to come back to it when I’m panicking about the next book.

Okay, that’s not going to help. I’m already panicking about the next book and I haven’t even started it. I think it’s the literary equivalent of stage fright. My first book is out in the shops in a few weeks and I’m terrified people won’t like it – especially people that know me.

It seems to be having a knock on effect and I’m second guessing myself about book four and trying to be far too clever in the plot and structuring rather than just starting to write the darn thing.

Anyway, that’s beside the point. Paranoia aside, this is what I did to help myself focus on the central conflict of Make Up to Break Up:

1.I did a GMC (Goal, Motivation, Conflict) chart. I didn’t go back and tinker with the one I did before I started the book; I did a new one based on what I knew about the characters now. It ended up being much meatier and more focused – especially the internal conflict.

2. I made a table with a row for each chapter and two columns: one for Nick and one for Adele. Then I wrote in what their goals were at each stage and what they were feeling. Not in great detail, just the main points. If their goal/emotional state was the same for a couple of chapters, it didn’t matter. I was giving myself a road map of their emotional journeys.

3. I printed out another chart (can you tell I love diagrams and charts?) a row for each scene and, using my emotional road map from no.2, I filled in what the main emotional focus of each scene should be, bearing in mind my editor’s suggestions. Then, when I revised each scene, I would check the little bit of blurb I wrote for each one. Anything that didn’t help the scene run in that direction was history. Whole pages of meaningless bickering disappeared instantly.

Now, I know this approach will send some people running for the hills screaming, but it works for me. When I have too many conflicting ideas swirling round my head I need to anchor them down in some way and creating something visual like a chart helps me focus. And at the end of the day, this was what this story had lacked: focus.

The things to strengthen it were already there in the text, but they’d just got muddied by a lot of extra stuff. In other words, my attempt at adding complex, layered conflict. I can’t remember where I read it recently (it may have been a Q&A on eharlequin) but someone said about conflict: Keep it simple. Keep it deep. I’m going to repeat that to myself while writing the next book.


Anonymous said...

Wow! Maybe because August Rock is longer and chapter shorter I am running scared of charting each chapter let alone each scene! I can see how this would really sharpen a book though so I may have to buckle down and do it :)

I have Blind Date Marriage and as DH is away tonight I have a date with it :) can't wait.



Jessica Raymond said...

I've said it before and I'll say it again... you are soooo organized! I'm too busy competing for Procrastinating Ditherer of the Year :)

Jess x

Fiona Harper said...

I'm biting my nails, Liz. What if it doesn't live up to the hype?

Jess, I not organised. I'm schizophrenic. Half of me is logical and ordered and the other half is creative and scatty. Just ask my friends if I'm organised and watch them laugh.

I think charts and things work for me beacuse I think in a very visual way and, if I can keep the image of that chart in my mind as I write, it keeps me on track.

Janet said...

I love reading about your charts and working methods,Fiona. I like to plan too. I can't do chapter bt chapter charts as I never know how much of the story is going to be in a specific chapter, so I work in scenes instead.
The problem is, it makes for a very long chart
Maybe next time I'll split the story in 3 sepearate charts--one for each act (and list the scenes under act headings)

Anonymous said...


Your name is MUD at the moment. I just finished Blind Date Marriage and I'm crying! Its brilliant. You needn't worry a bit. Its goreous. Really. I loved it and I'm picky!!!

Of course I haven't done any work and so your name is really MUD!!! No I have to try and look like I got something accomplished today!


Sue aka MsCreativity said...

Wow, Fiona! Thanks for sharing these methods. They're all great ideas and will help me loads when I'm working on my rewrites - if I ever complete the first draft, that is!

Sue :-)

Anonymous said...

It's true, she is very scatty and disorganised.... with about half of her life.

The other half of her life works with military precision and can be quite intimidating.

Thankfully, I get to see the disorganised side too!

(little sister)