Rip and Rebuild: Revisions Part 2
Posted by Diana Layne Mar 16 2012, 12:01 am in Diana Layne, Holly Lisle, How to Revise Your Novel, How To Think Sideways, Italy, Mafia, mob daughter, New York City, Randy Ingermanson, revisions, snowflake, The Good Daughter
Welcome back to Rip and Rebuild: Revisions Part 2! If you missed part 1, you can find it here.
Today we’re talking:
Nuts and Bolts: How to put it all together
OK, you’ve finished the scene cards, now what?
First, you separate them into stacks: plot and subplots. (Note: remember to make sure they’re numbered before you start getting them out of order.) Holly Lisle has some neat little forms in her course where as she goes through the stacks, she writes out what is missing and broken in the scenes. While this is where I first use the Snowflake software.
In Snowflake, I type in the SFR (Sentence for Revision, see part one) summary sentences to the plot in the place where you plug in your sentences, and it generates a synopsis for me. Then I do the same for each subplot.
If you don’t have the Snowflake software, you can write out sentence by sentence in your word processing program OR you can use Holly’s method, having a sheet of paper with a column for what is missing in the scene, a column for what is broken in the scene and a column to write out what scene these problems occur. (I’m not even going to attempt to draw a table in WordPress, sorry, but it’s easy enough to generate a table in a word processing program if you want to get fancy). The choice is yours, which method you use, the synopsis or the table or paper and pen. Later, Holly uses a synopsis in a different manner so I’m veering off from her course here a bit.
I use the synopses of the plot and subplots and read them for continuity and yes, I do mark what seems broken or missing and make notes to myself for what might need to be cut or where it needs more information to make sense. I just mark it up with a pen.
Again, analyze your plot and subplot(s) in any manner in which you feel comfortable. Now, set your notes and the cards aside.
Next, with your theme, GMC’s, and SFR cards, you’re familiar enough with the intricacies of your story that you can now work on The Sentence. And I will tell you, I say The Sentence with a sound of awe and reverence in my voice.
Again, it is the same sentence template that you used for the Sentence For Revision. Only this time, it needs to be around 30 words, be as polished as you can make it…and encompass the whole book!
I want to quote from Holly’s course How To Revise Your Novel© here because what she says is so RIGHT.
“The easiest way to wrap your head around The Sentence—the single sentence that defines your story—is to write that single sentence first. Writing the one-sentence story before you write the story is part of the process of Thinking Sideways [another Holly course]. It helps you stay on track during the first draft, it prevents a lot of pointless digression, and it results in a finished first draft closer to the book you want to have written. The process of writing and using The Sentence before the first draft , though, is worlds apart from writing one based on a completed first draft.”
“If you ARE one of the folks who didn’t start your story with The Sentence, you now face the unenviable task of taking a hundred-foot-tall, three-hundred-year-old oak tree and squeezing the essence of that behemoth back into the seed.” ~Holly Lisle, How To Revise Your Novel ©
Me again. I guarantee you she’s right, and I start my books with The Sentence now.
Okay, to refresh your memory, The Sentence is:
Protagonist with a need vs. Antagonist with a need in an interesting setting with a twist.
Delving a little deeper…
Protagonist: Don’t use the main protagonists name, but try for two or three words, adjective(s) plus noun. I used mafia daughter. I know, I know, if you’re writing romance there’s a hero and a heroine. You have to decide on one for this process. Which one has the most growth, or the most to lose or gain? Start with that one. Incidentally, Holly’s course has an excellent way to analyze and sharpen your characters but that’s too in-depth for this post.
Antagonist: again, this might not be a person, but if it is, try to describe in two or three words as above.
Conflict: this is the “with a need”part — what the protagonist needs vs. what the antagonist needs.
Setting: yes, setting matters although I didn’t use setting extensively in The Good Daughter. I reasoned that most everyone had an image of the NYC area in their mind, and I did try to use specificity for some of the places to give more of a sense of setting. Think about this for your book, and remember it is Your Book so do what is best for you.
Twist: Just like your scenes need a twist, so does the book. The big twist should be the reason you write the book…and analyzing the twist from each character’s POV, it was the twist of Marisa risking everything she knew that helped me focus on her as the main character and gave me direction for the rewrite.
To make The Sentence for The Good Daughter, I have:
Protagonist with need: Mafia daughter seeks vengeance
Antagonist with need: The mob who killed her cop boyfriend to silence him
Setting: Transplanted to New York from Italy
Twist: The mob boss is her father and to destroy the mob will destroy the only way of life she knows.
The Sentence for The Good Daughter:
An Italian transplant to NYC mafia daughter seeks vengeance against the mob who killed her boyfriend to silence him, but the mob boss is her father.
27 words. As a first attempt it’s rough, and I’m reasonably sure I need some hyphenated words in there, but it comes in at word count, at least!
However, I refined it. And left out the setting in the rewrite. (don’t throw things at me!) In reality, this mob book could be made to work in any city with a mob presence. This is not the case in every book, and I did research and use setting, but I didn’t use it to the extent where it could be another character in my story. So it got nixed in this rewrite, and also note, this Sentence came in over 30 words. (I’m ducking, I’m ducking—but really I tried!!)
The kinda-bending-the-rules Sentence:
When the mob kills her cop boyfriend and ruins her chances for a new life, a mafia daughter vows to bring them down–at the risk of destroying her family and the only life she’s known.
But it worked for me. So now that I have my Sentence, I grab my synopses with the notes, make sure the note cards are back in numerical order although not yet bound, and start analyzing each scene.
As I go through each card, I use my notes off the synopses, and analyzing each card in depth…noting what is missing, what doesn’t belong, what is broken…ALWAYS comparing whether or not it fits in with The Sentence. When I find something that needs fixing, I grab a colored card.
Let me take a minute for an aside on the colored cards here. Holly has a fantastically organized system for using the colored cards…which stayed in my head all of five seconds. But only because I have the attention span of a flea. No, nix that, a flea has a longer attention span, at least if it’s on a nice plump dog. If you are a newbie at this writing and revising thing, a course like Holly’s How To Revise Your Novel or How to Think Sideways is worth it if you can scrape up the money. I say this, not because she paid me—heck, I never met her, but because I did scrape up the money for both courses and they were amazing. Her courses are well thought-out and organized and full of terrific, thought-provoking, story-improving, life-changing information. (yes, I’m a total fan girl)
But since my very first words, according to my parents were, “I’ll do it myself”, and because I have the aforementioned short attention span, plus I get easily bored, I always manage to wing it, even when there are stellar instructions. (Of course this often causes me trouble, but I seem to learn best by messing up first.)
Back to the notecards, if I find something is missing and I have to add a scene, I grab one in the red family, red, pink or orange (if all those colors are not in the red family, I apologize, I’m not an artist). This is a visual reminder that I’ve got a lot of work coming up when I make it to one of those cards.
If I come across one of those Frankenscenes and it has to be cut into several scenes, I grab a different colored card, say yellow, and write the new info on however many cards I’ll need for the new scenes. If something is broken, I choose a blue card. Why? Broken and blue start with a B? Blue’s my favorite color? I don’t know, I just used blue. And on the blue card, I’ll write the original sentence from that scene and then how it needs to be fixed and then trash the white card. (Note: be sure you keep a numbering scheme going—as I add cards, I’ll use the card number plus a letter of the alphabet. For instance if I have to add a new scene right after card number 4, I’ll number that card 4-A.)
If a scene doesn’t work, or it’s not a scene, then I draw a big X through it and leave it in the stack so my numbering sequence doesn’t get messed up.
And basically that’s it. I go through card by card comparing, adding cards, X-ing cards, making notes on cards and when I’m finished with the stack, I bind the cards, clip my notes together and…the work begins.
What? Wasn’t that work? You bet your sweet patooty it is! Eye-crossing, hair-pulling, brain-fogging work. But it’s only just beginning because now you have to go back and fix the manuscript. If you’re like me with The Good Daughter, that’s pretty much a whole rewrite.
I guarantee you now that I start my story with The Sentence and I have a Sentence for each scene. This gives me some direction, while also not being too rigid to stifle creativity.
Oh, and as mentioned in the previous post, here’s a picture of my index card notebook. I love my index card notebook!
Hope this has helped you with your next revision project. Questions? What revision tips do YOU have?
For more about Diana Layne or to keep up with her releases, please visit her website www.dianalayne.com.