April 27, 2012

I Love It When a Plan Comes Together

Earlier this week I posted about the kind of outlining and notetaking that I'm using for this revision. The short version: To deal with the complex three-in-one structure of my novel, I've had to spend an awful lot of time keeping track of the story.

For this third major draft of the manuscript, I worked hard to plan all the big things in advance. But despite the extensive planning, I still periodically encounter gaping holes where I failed to map out the logic behind a required scene. These holes are particularly extensive near the end of each storyline.

As an example, say my outline indicates that in this chapter the narrator confronts his mother and father, separately, about the big family secret he's learned about from his sister. And that in the course of these conversations, he arrives at all the necessary realizations and decisions that will allow him to choose the actions that come next in the plot. Oh, and also that there should be some plausible reason for the topic to come up in this scene after everyone's avoided talking about it for so long.

Well, when I get to this point in the outline, I might be lucky enough to discover that Past Me left some suggestions about how to accomplish all this. But Past Me was a less experienced writer than Present Me, so the suggestions are likely to be pretty weak. And that doesn't matter anyway, because the earlier parts of the story have deviated so far from the outline that the suggestions no longer make any sense.

So then I worry that I may not be able to believably bring about the scenes and realizations needed for the plot to conclude the way it's supposed to. And I panic for a while and stop working and decide to give up writing and become a goatherd. Or maybe a dolphin trainer.

But I eventually convince myself to keep going. And somehow I write the necessary scenes in a way that makes far more sense than I planned, with far more important insights for the characters plus a bunch of exciting new connections for the reader to appreciate. It's perfect! It's brilliant! It might turn out to be horribly forced when I share it with anyone else, but for now, I'll continue deluding myself!

The storyline that remains to be revised is absolutely full of holes, and I intend to give the outline some more attention before I get started. I'm sure I still won't manage to figure it all out in advance. But I'm going to continue hanging on to the hope that ultimately, I'll manage to cram all the pieces of this puzzle together.

Good Stuff Out There:

→ Tim Parks writes for the New York Review of Books blog in defense of ebooks: "...are these old habits essential? Mightn't they actually be distracting us from the written word itself? Weren’t there perhaps specific pleasures when reading on parchment scroll that we know nothing of and have lived happily without?" (Thanks, The Millions!)

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