Posted in writing

Editing a Series

Although April is Camp NaNoWriMo, I chose not to ‘officially’ participate this year, even though I’d had the project for this month picked out since the beginning of the year, largely because I’m still a little wary of burn-out and diving back into Hero Stones.

Regardless of that fact, for the last two days I’ve been rereading, making notes and generally figuring how to go about editing an entire series. Initially when I started I thought doing a full outline would work, but I’m discovering that’s not quite the case.  Research hasn’t turned up a lot of fruitful results either.

Having spent the last two days fighting with a massive outline however, I finally hit the solution this morning: even though a series is larger than any singular book, the process hasn’t changed any. Within any novel during my early drafts there’s usually a chapter or two that needs to get taken apart and cannibalized by the others surrounding chapters. I kept looking at the series as individual parts, but they function much like chapters of any other novel I’ve written, albeit multiple times the word count of any other chapter.

With that in mind, I went back to the notes and started marking the individual stories that weren’t working. Knowing where those are now, for right now I’m skipping the outline to redraft based just on the notes.


Posted in Exercises, writing

Plot Breakdown

Plot can be kind of tricky at times. There are a number of factors pushing and pulling on it: character motivation, conflict, internal and external goals and in some cases setting elements. It can be the main driving force in a story, pulling characters along relentlessly and adding to their struggles, or plot can be a little less forceful, happening as characters react to conflicts and actions.

When I talked about my revision process, I promised a better look into how I do my plot breakdowns. Since this week also kicks off the start of the conflict series, this is just about the perfect time to talk about that.

To start the breakdown, I take a look at the exposition. That is, where the characters start in the story. Sometimes this covers their ‘normal’ and the inciting incident that directly involves them in the story’s conflict.

For larger stories I break the plot into three conflicts. Shorter stories might only have one or two conflicts.

Primary conflict is the major, overarching problem. The one that every character has a stake in and will be directly affected by. This could be something like Romeo and Juliet being in love despite their family’s feud. It could be that your antagonist has kidnapped your MC’s grandmother. This is the largest problem, and likely the one that won’t be solved until towards the end.

Secondary conflicts are often where I place the events that only impact the Main Character. These are usually the smaller conflicts that add complications to the larger problem. This might be finding out that he is in fact, adopted and his beloved ‘grandmother’ never knew his parents. In the case of Romeo and Juliet, a secondary conflict might be the fact that Juliet’s father tried to force her to marry Paris against her wishes.

Tertiary conflicts act a lot like your secondary conflicts, in that it won’t affect everyone. These conflicts might only impact a few supporting characters, or even just one. They’ll still add complications to your primary conflict, and can still cause problems. Back to Romeo and Juliet, a third conflict might in fact be the illness which eventually prevents the Friar’s letter from reaching Romeo. In the example of the kidnapped grandmother, it could be your MC’s grandmother is also diagnosed with an illness and will die without proper treatment.

Every plot however, has a climax, which in breakdown is the point where all three conflicts come together. This might be a singular event, or the discovery of all the problems which have occurred. For our kidnapped grandmother, the climax could very well be the MC desperately calling an ambulance to wherever she’s been held and hoping he’s made it in time to save her life, and finally learning where she adopted him from. With Romeo and Juliet, the climax is in fact, the death of Romeo in Juliet’s tomb.

Each conflict has a resolution of course. Secondary and Tertiary conflicts might be resolved somewhere closer to the climax—such as your MC finding a medication which can help slow the effects of the illness, buying his grandmother a little more time to live and get to a hospital. Obviously, this isn’t always the case, as Romeo and Juliet die very close to the end of the play and everything there is technically ‘solved’. Each conflict has its own resolution.

This usually works to cover the major events of any plot without necessarily detailing the exact when. It can also help simplify a twisted plot to make it easier to work with.

Posted in General

The Revision Process

One of the biggest things I struggled with when I started taking writing seriously was the revision process. By nature and default, I write the story without a plan and let it go where it will. Coupling that with the fact that I’m constantly getting new ideas and I’ve taught myself to write a rough draft pretty quickly. I have a constant stack of rough drafts that I’m pretty much always adding too. The big problem for me is that when I’m ready to move from rough draft to next draft, I always feel like I’m staring at a pile of words and wondering where to start.

Writing being what it is and being so highly subjective, there isn’t going to be a guide on ‘do this next’ that suits every writer every single time. However, while trying to figure out where my revision processes was the slowest, I ended up with a list of steps I usually take. While this won’t necessarily fit every person, if you’re wondering ‘what next’ this might give you some ideas of your own on where to head next.

Notes are a huge thing for me. Before I actually start editing, I read through the whole draft and make notes about edits I want to make. Usually I do these by hand and have my own short-hand for it (+ to add something, – to take it out, ~ for changing something completely). This way I can get a good overview of where I’m at and where I want to be.

A Character List is the next step. I do this so I don’t forget anyone, and so I can mark down who is playing for the protagonist, the antagonist, or themselves. Typically I leave enough space that I can jot down what their goal and motivation is. This makes it easy to see if I have hidden conflicts I haven’t touched on, or if I have solid reasoning for two characters to be opposing each other.

Because I use outlines only after I’ve done the first draft, Plot Breakdowns help me check to make sure my conflicts and resolutions don’t have gaping holes in them. Although I’ve used the standard plot structure (exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, resolution) to do this before, I’ve also found another method focused on the conflicts rather than the events that works better for me (I’ll cover that method in another post, so keep any eye out for it!).

With my characters and plot done, it’s time to make the Outline. I try to do this based on memory of the rough draft and with the information in the plot breakdown and from the notes. This makes it easier to limit extraneous scenes from the rough that either didn’t pan out or that just don’t fit in with the plot properly, as well as give myself a roadmap of changes I need to make while rewriting scenes.

Once all of that’s done, it’s time to tackle the next draft. At this point I actually create a new document and work side-by-side the original. This way if I come across a phrase or sentence I like, I can copy and paste directly into the new draft while cleaning up any questionable word choice as I go.

This doesn’t hold true on every single project I’m working on. Series are a little more involved because I also need to make sure the series arc itself makes sense and progresses. On occasion I’ve also come across a draft that needs a lot more work than just listed above–things like just finding the main plot, changing or reducing the number of view points, possibly even revamping the initial idea. In this case I may have to just work off the notes I’ve made and rewrite most if not all of the initial draft.

Posted in General, writing

Keeping Your Notes

At some point in the writing process—be that before you even start the first draft, or when you start polishing it—you’re going to create notes. What exactly those notes include changes based on your style, the genre and where you are in the process. Regardless of what’s in them, you’ll need a way to keep them organized, of which there are plenty of ways to choose from.

Story Bibles are one way. These are hard copy notes, often kept in binders and organized into different sections. Often they can be great for keeping track of series as well as for any notes you make while in the different stages of writing, revising and editing.

Notekeeping software is becoming more and more common. Things like OneNote, Evernote, Google Keep and many others are widely available across a range of prices from the free to the pricey. These can allow you to organize your notes all under one story, setting, time period or whatever else works for you. This can be invaluable for large amounts of research and for expansive world building.

Speaking of software, writing programs such as Scrivener and the Novel Factory can be used to keep some notes right from the start. This can help keep making forward progress as well as make managing notes on plot, setting and even characters much easier.

There’s also no reason you can’t use multiple ways of keeping notes. For the actual editing notes such as my outlines and character arcs, I use binders to contain those, but when it comes to world building and setting notes, I keep it in OneNote for quick reference. What do you use to organize your notes?