Saturday 18th April 2020

I’ve started on the Shade Knight book 2 manuscript today.  After some time doing the “thinking” work, I’ve now moved onto the outline and loaded the document up.

I write in Scrivener rather than MS Word (although I tend to do edits in Word).  I don’t use the software to its full potential but over time I’ve used its additional features more heavily.

One of my favourite areas is the corkboard.  I often use this to plan out novels.  It gives me a bird’s eye view of the flow of the plot, and especially where my hero has both their alter ego and hidden identity (or Batman vs Bruce Wayne as I refer to it as) having very separate plotlines, it allows me to see where I’m focusing too much on one or the other.

A recent change in my editing process is that when it comes to revisions, instead of creating a whole new document, I actually copy the text and have an “old” and “working” copy within the same document.  It allows me to easily refer back as well as have confidence that I can make extreme changes in my working document.

With this rewrite, I now have a very clear idea of what I need to do.  As a result I’m going into my corkboard of the working document and moving things around, deleting and adding scenes.  Of course, this completely destroys the flow of the text, but this is why I have my old copy to refer back to.  Once I complete this I will go back into the text and rewrite / edit as necessary to repair the flow of the story – to ensure Chekov’s gun that was introduced in chapter 1 and fired in chapter 3 isn’t now fired in chapter 1 and introduced in chapter 5.

But for now, it’s carnage.

Things will continue to change as I get into the text and edit.  I’ll add and amend scenes.  The corkboard outline isn’t something that I rigidly stick to, but rather use as a guide.  That said, I want to feel happy with the outline.

I’ve learnt from rewrites on Black as Knight that I can be ruthless, so the level of mixing scenes around at the moment would have scared me a couple of years ago.

What I want to ensure at this stage is that each scene drives into the next:  that A causes B causes C, rather than event A is followed by event B and so on.  When you have a “Bruce Wayne” storyline and a “Batman” storyline this is sometimes hard to achieve.  The first draft did this pretty well, however I need to ensure that my planned changes don’t cause me too many issues but instead take this further.

As I’ve mentioned I’ve significantly changed one of the antagonists.  I only have a rough idea of them currently but I know the theme of the novel so I know where the conflict will lay.  I don’t need to define that conflict in detail right now, but this is the section of the revised outline that’s causing me the most trouble.

Ideally, I’m unromantic about the changes.  This is why I’m only dealing with the corkboard rather than the actual text.

I do have some worries at this stage.  I, ideally, need to lose around 20k from this draft, and I think I can do it as some scenes are dead weight and need to be removed and changed, but I worry that leaves me less space to develop some characters and ideas.  These scenes are often slight of hand.  It’s a cool action scene where the purpose is really to develop a character or lay down an important piece of plot.  I’m maybe removing it because the action scene doesn’t work… but then I have to worry where the character development or plot point now gets placed.

And I worry I’m cutting too many scenes, that I’m stripping the story back too much in places.  Sometimes, in the writing or rewriting scenes naturally add themselves (as I said, this is a fluid process) but I’d like to get better at outlining as I grow as a writer so I don’t have to rely on that.

As a result, whilst I don’t feel like I need a new subplot… I feel I need to expand out some of the existing plot to house the bits I want to keep.  I worry, I’ve stripped back an 120k word novel to a 75k word one.  I won’t really know until I go into the writing stage of this edit.

So currently, I go in, look at the flow of scenes, cut and reorder as I see fit.  I also put notes to myself.  Plot points that need to be included, character dynamics that need to be set up or moved forward.  This is very much a document for me, rather than a traditional outline.  It’s so I know what needs to be done.

I work in small bursts.  Go in, change a whole load, find myself getting stuck on a point, going away to think about it briefly, and then return afresh.

Whilst I’ve moved a bunch around, I do think as a result of experience, this first draft is better structured than the first draft of Black as Knight.  Despite the quite drastic reordering of scenes, it’s in pretty good shape.  I’m stuck on a bit in the middle though.

If the Bruce Wayne plot is a set of scenes A1, A2, A3, etc. and the Batman scenes are B1, B2, etc.  then at the most simple level, the book flows A1 -> B1 -> A2 -> B2

Around the middle I want to cut, say, B7 to B9.  It makes sense.  B6 could lead directly to B10 and make for a stronger plot.  However, this leaves A7 – A9 hanging, and I need those scenes for the Bruce Wayne plot.  So perhaps B6 could now become B9, but then what do I do with the Bruce Wayne scenes?

I’m currently going over my corkboard and seeing if I could move other scenes around to enable this flow. This isn’t a problem so much of plot or theme, but logistics.  Certainly, creative answers need to be formulated, but this feels very much in the remit of the craft of writing rather than the art.

Do I intend to spend long on this?  Not at all.  The hard bit has been done, and now it’s just a case of using the decisions from my thinking stage to reconstruct the corkboard.  There’s a chance that I hit a bit of a roadblock that requires me to go off and rethink things, but mostly this is just using a different side of my brain to piece the jigsaw puzzle together.  If it goes well, I could be diving into the actual edit sometime today.  At worst, a few more days to a week.

I really want to get cracking with this edit and I’m hoping it’ll be a quick one.  I’ve heard of people who can edit a book in a week… I’m not one of those people, but over the years I’ve improved my editing process and got faster.  I can definitely write fast, and whilst I don’t want to sacrifice quality just in order to be fast, I’d like to be more efficient in my editing.

A few years ago, I never really knew what I was doing when it came to editing.  Now I have a stronger idea.  I’m not at the stage where my brain can separate structural edits from copyedits but it’s a process to get to that process.  And I’ve learnt that spending time planning such as doing this work on the outline will make me quicker overall.

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