Tuesday 28th April 2020

I think I have a working outline for the redraft of book 2.

I spent some time yesterday working through the story circle and applying it to what I had currently.  I started by creating one for each of the three acts (as well as a fourth for the overall book), and detailing what was the central conflict.

I revealed that the theme of this book is heroism and each of the antagonists is an argument about heroism in some way.  The protagonist will then come into conflict with that person (and on a thematic level, their viewpoint) to reach the conclusion of the book and the statement I want to make.  This is all very much subtext and it’s been quite a challenge to work this way around (when I’d normally discover the subtext and reach a conclusion on the theme at the end).

Next I’ve taken each act, and detailed the eight stages of the story circle.  Again, this is very loose.  I’m using this as a guide / quality check, rather than trying to come up with something formulaic.  I think this is where it helps to already have a first draft, and rough outline for a second draft – otherwise I would have been too literal.

I had gaps, and as I suspected, they were around the areas I have was having story concerns.  But at the same time, I felt the overall novel fit the model very well.  This gave me the confidence that this model was a right one to use.

So where I had a gap, such as the “unfamiliar situation” of act 2, it made me think about what was missing.  It directed my thinking a lot, and made me do several things.  First was that the key scene I wanted to keep had to move later in the act (as I suspected).  More importantly, it led me to a conclusion that there was some conflict missing.  The rest of the book has escalating tensions as I pile on my protagonist, but there was one character that I hadn’t set up conflict with.  So now, that’s been added in, and builds on some tension from act 1.

The next part of this was to go into the corkboard mode on Scrivener.  Whilst I tend to start a new document for each draft, I’ve started creating the new document by taking a copy of the last one, duplicating the book, and then having 2 copies of the novel in the same document… the one I’m working on and the last one.

One of the main reasons for this is it gives me the confidence to really go to town with the rewrite as I have a backup there in the document.

I basically start dragging scenes around, reordering them, deleting them, adding new ones in.  I’m only ever looking at the corkboard so the fact that the text underneath is being mixed up as I shuffle scenes can be ignored.

I make notes to myself.  Plant this here, escalate that, dial back there, change this, etc.

It’s carnage.  Chapter 24 is now directly after chapter 17, chapter 22 and 23 are nowhere to be seen, and there are a couple of extra chapters between 9 and 10.  NOTE to anyone who reads this in the future:  this is illustrative,  I’m not sure what chapters I’ve moved where as I’ve already renumbered them)

The point is that I have a new outline.  I read through it again this morning and there’s nothing glaring that I feel is missing.  Because I’ve been working with the story for a month or so now, it doesn’t feel as fresh as it did when I first came back to it.  As a result, I have to fight the fear that this doesn’t feel as great a story as it did when I returned to it.  I guarantee you that by the time I get to editing chapter 27, I’ll absolutely hate this novel.  I also know that by the time I get to the end I’ll love it again.

So now I have a new outline, some with chapters that are now broken because they are out of sync or contain references to things that now never happened.

The next step is to go through each chapter and rebuild the novel on a text level.  I use to be the person who would rewrite an entire scene from scratch, but I’ve learnt from editing Black As Knight just how much you can change with just a few sentences.  As a result, I’d rather edit out the 20% that no longer fits than rewrite 100%.

I’d like to do this next part relatively fast.  This isn’t so much due to impatience as trying to speed up my editing process.  I’ve put the investment up front over the last month with the idea that I can now move at speed.

I have a few characters who I want to change so that adds a complication, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I have the odd chapter or two that need next to no work.

I’m both excited and scared to get working on this.  A few years ago I was pumping first drafts out, but the editing slowed me down.  I’m hoping that my editing process is evolving in such a way that I can work with similar speed and precision.  I want to be quicker at turning round completed novels  (the industry might want to put one out a year, but that doesn’t mean I can’t write 3 and have a backlog).  I still have a way to go but I’m putting lockdown to good use working on and improving my craft.

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