Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Can You Hear My Editing Screams?

I just turned in a huge round of revisions on my YA book to my agent. And for the rest of the month, I'll be doing some pretty major edits to Book Numero Dos for my editor. You know what I've discovered this month? Plot is freakin' HARD!

Being more of character-and-voice-driven writer, plotting is something that doesn't come naturally to me at all. I have no problem picturing scenes in my head and my characters talk to me all day long, but trying to decide exactly where those scenes go in a book is somewhat of a challenge. I mean, it's not like there's a certain formula to follow or an understood roadmap other than--inciting incident, plot point #1, plot point #2, climax, etc. The intricacies of a plot are so much greater than the sum of any certain guideline.

So what this means is that I usually end up moving around my scenes during revisions--like little fictional puzzle pieces, trying to figure out where they make the most sense and still keep the story moving forward. Not to mention all of the hacking I have to do in the second draft. See, I don't outline; I usually just start writing. Usually, it takes me a few chapters to really get the voice down, thus delaying any kind of inciting incident. Thus, I usually end up having to severly cut down my beginnings. Because like 5 chapters of a character doing random things and internal monologue typically doesn't translate into a good book.

Although I can't say that I've really gotten a good grasp on plotting, I think one thing that's helpful is to chart out your main character's emotional journey--how his/her feelings, thoughts and actions change throughout the book. Then, use that as a guide for what goes where. For example, if your character has just gotten a fabulous new job and is thrilled with life, now's probably not the time for her to have the exhausted/frustrated fight with her husband, know what I mean? Use the emotional journey as the driving force in the book, and it will color all of the events and scenes.

Man, I really sound like I know what I'm talking about here, huh? Hopefully, I'll take my own advice as I do a serious machete job on this godforsaken book. And someday, maybe I'll improve my mad plotting skillz so that my second drafts don't involve so much headbanging and screaming.


Steph Su said...

*grins* Good luck with that, Maureen! I definitely understand about plotting difficulties. Seems like I either get glimpses of fascinating scenes or a vague idea of what I want the book to be about... but no idea how to put them all together!

Jillian Cantor said...

I agree -- plot is my downfall, too! I like the idea of charting the emotional journey -- I've never thought to do that but it makes a lot of sense.

Lisa Patton said...

I can here you loud and clear! Can you hear my screams? AAAAAAAHHHHHHH! I never realize Chicago was so close to Nashville.

Lesley Livingston said...

An emotional journey and a machete! Don't leave home without them! Awesome advice.

Tracy Madison said...

Oooh, awesome post! I also chart the emotional journey, just not in quite the same way you do. But I can't even begin a story until I know what that journey is.