Salvaging Old Scenes for New Drafts

It’s officially April as I’m writing this, which means Camp Nanowrimo is here! I’m doing a big revision/rewrite this month of my WIP, and I’ve spent the last few weeks making a game plan and evaluating the old drafts and what needs to change or be added from scratch.

A lot of the background for one of my POV characters has changed, which leads to about half of her chapters in ACT 1 now being written new. Not all though, and most of the other POV character’s scenes are still mostly the same.

This brings me to today’s topic, which is salvaging old scenes for new drafts. It’s a fine line, knowing when to write a brand new scene and when something is capable of being revised rather than fully rewritten. In previous drafts I made the mistake of taking the “lazy” way out by salvaging as much of old scenes as I could. That’s fine and dandy if those scenes are actually staying mostly the same, but when I’m allowing the revisions to be half-assed in favor of taking the shortcut, it’s a problem.

So I’ve tried to be much harder on myself this go round. For a lot of scenes I asked myself if the basic premise of the scene was changing, and if it was then it had to be rewritten. If the setting is completely changing and that affects a lot of the scene, then it needs to be rewritten. In some cases it could be as simple as the plot, goal and setting are all still the same but the character’s underlying motivation is different or the emotional and physical dominos that led them to that scene are different and therefore the tone of the scene is different.

That’s what it really boils down to, I think, and what you should be looking at when trying to decide whether to salvage or scrap a scene. It’s also a factor I’ve ignored up till now, and have taken a lot of extra time to admit is an issue, and a lot of drafts I could’ve avoided. Tone, the motivation and just general meaning behind a scene is enough to necessitate a rewrite. It seems like such a small thing, but, in my opinion, it’s one of the few things that can’t just be revised. It’s an entire mindset for the scene, it’s in every word choice and tick your characters have.

And it’s so tempting to just have the old scene in front of me and rewrite that way, or go through and edit it to fit the new circumstances, but that isn’t always possible. Because even those who consider ourselves ruthless revisers and editors will still favor the words that are already on the page over the ones that have yet to be written.

It’s been a common theme in my revisions and posts lately, this idea of forcing myself not to take the lazy way out. I’m still working on that mindset, on being willing to put in every bit of leg work a project requires in order to ultimately produce the best story possible, to tell it the way it’s meant to be told no matter how much blood, sweat and tears it took to get there.

So remember, there’s plenty of reasons to chose revising over rewriting or vice versa, but it ultimately matters most what the scene needs, what the issues are and how they can best be approached so that you aren’t cheating yourself or your story.

 

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Using Character to Outline

Last week I talked about my plans for a major revision of my work in progress. In that post I mentioned that my main issues were world building and character arcs. As soon as I recognized that was where my focus needed to be, I began researching ways to develop these areas.

This research led me down a rabbit hole of posts on websites like Pub(lishing) Crawl and Writer’s Block Party. Here I discovered ways to interweave my characters with my world building, and ultimately develop a plot that will hopefully resonate in ways it currently doesn’t.

For those who just want the most useful resources, I’ve compiled a template for Character Arc using information from three different blog posts, and included the links for them.

Character Arc Template

Desires and Nailing Act I

Goal, Motivation and Conflict

Essential Story Beats

For anyone interested in my process over the last week and how I applied the above information, keep reading.

I originally put together this plan of filling out these sheets for my two POV characters and adjusting my current revision plans using the new information on goals and story beats. But I quickly realized, though the process of trying to determine the long and short-term desires for my characters, that they didn’t have any at the onset.

Oh, sure, my characters had goals in the story, I’ve revised it and plotted and outlined enough times by now that they had goals. But I realized when reading How to Nail Act I that they should have long-term and short-term desires that are actionable from the beginning.

Previously, Character A just had a desire to reunite her family. There were too many factors out of her control and she didn’t start the story with any sort of capability or plan on how she’d achieve that goal. Character B was along the same lines. His goal involved earning redemption for something in his past, but he had no timeline or concrete way of achieving that.

Realizing my characters needed actionable and larger scope desires from the onset left me with the realization that the why of the story was missing. Why does it have to be these characters? Why is it them called to action in the inciting incident? Essentially, why does it have to be them?

I didn’t have a reason, I had just written these characters in this world with this plot and that was it. No wonder even as the writer I wasn’t invested in the story. My characters needed to be integral to this story and the only ones capable of telling it. Once that major crisis was worked through, I knew I’d have to start from the beginning and establish those desires and the why.

It meant having to disconnect from the current story, which I had some trouble doing. I’ve read enough writerly advice to know that changing something as big as the character desires and the why would more than likely change the entire course of my story.

When the idea on Character A’s desires and why came to me, I knew that was the case. I loved where the what if took me, but it changed her relationships to the rest of the characters, it meant changing her knowledge and would require establishing some major magical world building that (once again) I’d been lazy about thus far.

I went with it anyway, I let the what if continue and while a large part of the premise of the story is still in my outline, I know I’ll have to rewrite every single scene with this in mind. Because a character’s desires and motives will filter into every action and word, changing how they come onto the page. Same for Character B, who’s goals haven’t so much changed as become much more concrete and actionable.

With all this in mind, I went into my Scrivener file, transferred the entire manuscript into a new folder at the bottom of the binder, and made a completely new, blank outline. Don’t get me wrong, I’m keeping a lot of plot points, but I wanted a blank file, one where I’ll be rewriting everything. I’m started from scratch in some ways, a blank page and a deadline to write a new draft, but in many ways this is still just a revision.

It’s a revision because it will be my 9th draft, and regardless of whether or not I have the previous draft in front of me, there’s no way all that trial and error won’t affect how I write this one. I think my words will flow better, and I think I’ll be able to cut to the heart of the scene easier.

I still have a lot to do. The outline and world building needs to be fleshed out and I know changes will have to be made as more becomes clear about the story and world. But for now, I have a much better idea of where the story needs to go, and how my characters are the only ones capable of getting it there.

Dealing with Doubt: Rewriting a Manuscript

thumb_IMG_0373_1024Not going to lie, I’m dealing with some pretty heavy self-doubt this week. I just finished reading through the latest draft of my WIP, and I’m finally ready to admit it needs heavy world building and character development work.

These are areas that I can realize I’ve been lazy in, and I’m finally at a place where I’m telling myself that rushing this project for the sole reason that I feel “time is running out” is not going to allow me to put forth my best possible work.

Rushing it and having a project that even I know still needs work will do nothing but burn bridges and waste time. Which brings me to the harder part: do I shelve the manuscript in order to write new projects and develop my skills as a writer, or do I start from essentially scratch with the same idea?

Honestly, the WIP I’ve been working on since Spring 2016 is pretty high fantasy, and I mostly read contemporary fantasy. As I sit here staring at my shelves and thinking of books I’ve enjoyed and been drawn to over the years, I’m forced to admit I don’t read very much fantasy set in a world other than our own. No wonder my world building is underdeveloped. I need to fully brainstorm and flesh out my world, and something that intense, that involved, that will have to be interwoven in every other piece of the story from the characters to the plot, can’t be done with a simple revision.

As much as I love so many parts of my manuscript and the work I’ve put in for two years now, I know I’d be once again cheating myself to just call that a revision. And if I’m going to rewrite anyway, shouldn’t I take the time to really learn the genre as I brainstorm? I think I should, that I’ll be left with another underdeveloped draft if I don’t.

These kinds of realizations scare me, make me want to save myself the learning experience and just begin working on a new idea. But those other ideas aren’t developed either. Most of them don’t have characters or any real semblance of plot, they’re still just premises, basic settings, things that I’m not attached to yet in the way I am the characters of my current WIP.

And that’s what I have to remind myself. The plot of my WIP has already changed a dozen times in the last two years, so have the settings and so many other little details. But those two years weren’t wasted. I know my characters in a way, even if I haven’t done them justice by developing their relationships and arcs. It’s the characters that make the story, and their fundamental motivations and characteristics aren’t changing, so I’ll love this new version of their story as much as the dozen that came before.

I’m going to force myself to not take the lazy way out, to not sit here and say “well it’s good enough”. Because if I can read my own work and see so many things I want to change, that can be developed better and leave a deeper impact, than I owe it to myself to put the work in.

So for my final thoughts on this, I’ll just say that regardless of whether or not you decide to shelve or rewrite a manuscript, think of it as a learning experience. As writers, every draft we write or revise teaches us something. Don’t be stuck on keeping something the way it is, and don’t avoid putting in the legwork. I’ve been avoiding world-building and character legwork for two years now. I’ve finally reached a point where I’m 100% excited about the plot, but even as the writer I don’t feel a resonance with it, and I know that’s because the world and characters aren’t interwoven deeply enough.

screen-shot-reaper-edits

Writing is Rewriting.

It’s time to make a new plan of attack, one focused on world building and character arcs. I’ve been researching different ways of doing this, and will be trying to outline and make a revision plan with these things in mind. I’m hoping to have a coherent idea of everything this latest revision needs in the coming week or two, which brings me to April.

April is CampNanoWrimo (my profile here), and as I was already planning to do a revision of my WIP during that, nothing has really changed. The scope has, but at the end of the month I hope I’ll be at least halfway to a new and improved version of my story.

P.S: A lot of the self-doubt has gone away by writing this. I highly suggest venting/working through issues like this, by laying out WHY you feel your story isn’t working, and making a game plan, it’ll hopefully no longer feel like a failure, but rather just another step toward becoming a better storyteller.

Read This Week: STALKING JACK THE RIPPER by Kerri Maniscalco

IMG_0332February was a bit of a reading slump in that I only read two books, and both of those had been started in early to mid-January. So, I told myself I’d strive to make reading more important in March, and I definitely got off on the right foot by reading STALKING JACK THE RIPPER by Kerri Maniscalco.

I’ve had this book sitting on my TBR shelf for a year now, along with its sequel (which I’m currently reading) and am super happy I finally picked it up. It had elements of two other favorites of mine JACKABY by William Ritter and SOMETHING STRANGE & DEADLY by Susan Dennard.

This book had everything I look for in a YA; spunky protagonist, charming love interest, and interesting setting. I loved every second of this novel and ended up reading the bulk of it in two sittings over two days. It’s definitely safe to say this book has gotten me back onto reading, as I immediately started the sequel and want even more books like this one.

The protagonist, Audrey Rose, is sure of herself and what she wants from the very beginning of the story. She never wavers in her desires, but she still grows and learns in a journey I found immensely satisfying to read. She encounters problems and people that are equally as riveting.

Every character in this novel, no matter how much page time they get, felt genuine and furthered the story and Audrey Rose’s journey. I loved how her own worries and expectations seamlessly played into the mystery and the suspense, leaving me hooked.

I’m definitely glad I picked this one up and can’t wait to see what happens in HUNTING PRINCE DRACULA.

My 2017 Reading List

I was inspired to make a post about what I read in 2017 after reading Marissa Meyer’s 2017 Reading List. I must say that 2017 was the best reading year I’ve had in a while, which is to say that according to Goodreads I by far surpassed my yearly reading total for the entire time I’ve been keeping track.

I’m excited to keep the trend going in 2018, and I’ll be posting my 2018 reading goals pretty soon. For now I’ll be sharing my 2017 reading stats broken down into category and genre, along with my favorite book I read in that genre this year. For the full list of what I read and what I’m currently reading, check out my Goodreads.

STATISTICS

Total Books Read: 47

The breakdown:

Young Adult: 20

Fantasy / Urban Fantasy: 13

By far my favorite YA books this year was the SOMETHING STRANGE & DEADLY series by Susan Dennard. I read this trilogy back in September and haven’t stopped thinking about it since.

Contemporary: 7

Three of these seven books were me rereading the ALL FOR THE GAME trilogy by Nora Sakavic, so out of the four I read for the first time in 2017 I’m going to have to go with ALWAYS AND FOREVER, LARA JEAN by Jenny Han.

Middle Grade: 6

Five of these six was the PERCY JACKSON AND THE OLYMPIANS series by Rick Riordan, and the other was THE DREADFUL TALE OF PROSPER REDDING by Alexandra Bracken. I’m equally obsessed with both and am looking forward to continuing reading both authors in 2018.

Nonfiction: 5

Writing Craft: 3

I’m going to go with SAVE THE CAT by Blake Snyder as it was the most technically helpful of the three, though I enjoyed the storytelling and humor of all three.

Sports History: 1

The lone book in this category is THE MONTREAL CANADIENS by J. Alexander Poulton.

Crime/Science: 1

Another lonely category, this time consisting of THE SCIENCE OF SHERLOCK HOLMES by E.J. Wagner.

Graphic Novels: 4

Another tie as this consists of two series I’m equally obsessed with. I read the first three volumes of LUMBERJANES and Vol. 1 of THE BACKSTAGERS.

Science Fiction: 3

I’m beginning to see a pattern. Once again there’s only two series in this category. I read the first two HITCHHIKERS GUIDE TO THE GALAXY books by Douglas Adams and THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS by M.R. Carey.

Fantasy / Urban Fantasy: 3

This one is a tight race, but I’m going to go with a book I’ve wanted to read for years and finally got around to, which is GOOD OMENS by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett.

Short Story Collections: 2

Since one of these was a reread of the all the Sherlock Holmes stories, I’ll stick with BECAUSE YOU LOVE TO HATE ME edited by Ameriie.

Fiction (mystery): 1

ARROWOOD by Mick Finlay.

Fiction (classic): 1

FRANKENSTEIN by Mary Shelley

Poetry/Novels in Verse: 1

THINGS LEFT UNSAID by Stephanie Hemphill

Other: 1

CAT’S LETTERS TO SANTA by Bill Adler and Illustrated by Paul Bacon.

 

Productivity vs. Productive Procrastination

This past week I had some pretty lofty writing goals. I accomplished about half of it. The week isn’t over yet (at the time of writing this it’s 6:30 on Sunday evening), but I won’t be finishing that goal.

I wanted to finish writing the new scenes I’d outlined for one of my POV characters. Next week I’m planning on writing the scenes for the other POV character. As it stands, I still have three and half chapters to write for POV 1. That’s about 7,500 words to try and write tonight, and I know it’s possible but unlikely.

Which brings me to this week’s blog topic; being productive versus procrastinating productively. I was off work Tuesday and Wednesday, still I spent a large chuck of Wednesday reworking character profiles and how I had them all formatted in Scrivener. It was something that only vaguely had to be done (which is another’s days topic, as I probably should utilize them more).

I was being “productive” by doing something so far down on the list of necessary tasks that even after completing it I’m no closer to achieving my writing goals for this week, or month, or any of the things I’d hoped to already have done this far into 2017.

There’s no use worrying about what I did four days ago, and in some regards even worrying about tonight. I’m going to attempt to write like crazy before I have to turn in tonight, but the real changes that need to be worried about are more far-reaching than this week. So, I’m making a promise/game plan right now for how the rest of 2017 is going to work.

Will I stick to the game plan? I really hope so, because I’ve got long-time goals for myself that will never come to fruition without a little more self-discipline and sacrifice. Sacrifice of time, sacrifice of some hobbies and TV programs. But it’ll be worth it, and they won’t be going away anyway.

What I need is a schedule, one that allows for the most productivity, and the least room for excuses and “productive procrastination. Because yes, I do need to clean my room, and fold laundry, and read some more books, and FINALLY finish crocheting the blanket I started for my mom. But those things can have designated timeslots, and so should writing.

And that’s what I task anyone else dealing with the same productivity issues as I am to focus on. Make a realistic schedule you know you can keep, have designated times that you won’t feel guilty about doing chores, or hobbies, or any number of other things that are important to you. Balance is important in any aspect of life, and for me, it’s an aspect I’m nowhere near coming close to, but one I’m going to continue striving toward.

Fall Quarterly Goals

October is well underway (as in almost over), so I am definitely behind in making my quarterly goals for Fall. Better late than never, though. I’m keeping it simple for the coming months, with only two goals, though in some regards, both are pretty lofty.

  1. Finish revising my current WIP

I’ve been working on my current manuscript since I wrote draft one way back during Camp NanoWrimo April 2016. Over a year later I’m still self-revising. It feels never ending at times, I make a revision plan, then get halfway or even complete the revision, and I’ve already got a list of major plot changes I want to make.

It’s time to really and truly get my ish together. I’ve got a current revision plan, and I’m getting more in depth with not only my two POV characters, but also the main three ensemble characters involved in the story, and I’m going to get as in depth with any plans for a potential sequel, as I’m realizing one of the major issues with book one is an unclear idea of how it needs to end to propel the rest of the plot arc and character journeys. By the end of December (though hopefully much, much sooner) I will be ready for searching out a critique partner and making progress on the story.

  1. Read 10 Books

I’m actually hoping for more, but I’m only six shy of completing my Goodreads goal, and I currently have 44 books on my bookshelf that remain unread, so I’m aiming realistically, and hoping to make a real dent in that number before going into the new year. But with my main focus being writing, and other life things that inevitably get in the way, it’s a bit up in the air if I’ll hit more than ten. But that’s what makes it a goal, and I’ll be aiming high on this one.

All in all, I’ve got high hopes for the Fall quarter, in regards to goal one, it’s a last-ditch effort to go all in and finally get a draft that doesn’t feel like it still needs major overarching changes. On goal two, there’s the obvious that if I don’t read the books now, I’ll fail my Goodreads goal, and limit myself in the coming year. I’d really like to not be feeling the same constant shame of so many unread books on my shelf, just staring down at me all the time.