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Well, I've survived what became commonly known as the Week Of Hell. Not through any particularly hellish nature of most of the events therin, just through how close together they were. I've had some kind of social engagement on every single night of the last week, hosting half of them, and have been spending the cracks in between them cleaning the house and doing the dishes. And recovering from bronchitis.

So today, my first day off in a week, I've started back in on editing Return to Sender with a fresh mind, and I am loving it.

A few weeks ago, with the last burst of editing I managed to do, one character suddenly developed a life of his own and stepped off the page into full colour in my mind. That was pretty sweet, because he'd previously been a terrible character, and now he's brilliant. After I'd dealt with him, I had my breakdown over where to go to next among the remaining swill. Then, when I'd finally managed to pare out the worst of the rotten parts, I filled out my spreadsheet, which gave me specifics to work with and holes to fill, but even though I felt so much better, I still couldn't really write.

Because even though at that stage I'd worked out exactly what had to happen, where and when it had to happen, and why it had to happen, I didn't know how it happenened. The most interesting scene was just gelatinous blobs in my head, which always causes me trouble, because I write the other way around: I start with a few specifics I'm totally sure of and develop the big picture from that. When I try to write a scene for a purpose without specifics like this, every idea I have is immediately shot down by some other neccessity for the overall result before it even has time to develop. So I was stuck, and no matter how much I tried to write this scene I knew would be brilliant, I just couldn't get a handle on it without the Blob in my head shying away and insisting That Wasn't How It Happened, but still not coming up with the goods on How It Actually Did Happen.

Yes, I have a complicated relationship with my muse.

So when I got bronchitis and then the week of hell happened along, editing kind of fell by the wayside for a while - and I'm glad.

Because the night before last, I had another character spring to life on me with some real specifics - and this is one that I've been waiting to develop a heart and soul for a long time. One that I'd expected to dominate the screen right from the beginning, but one that never really convinced me as a character and so ended up rocketing from one extreme to the other as I tried to "find" her.

Well, I've certainly found her now - and in the process, she's given the protagonist another few internal organs to call his very own.

She still doesn't flow for me - she's far too Slytherin, and I too Ravenclaw to understand how it feels to be able to predict people's reactions well enough to manipulate them. Especially since I have to narrate her through the eyes of a Hufflepuff.

But, slowly, I'm turning another rubbish spacefiller chapter full of random, unsupported decisions, into something pivotal. Something gripping. Something that makes every one of my characters more what they are - especially the ones it makes more what they're becoming without ever leaving what they were. Something that's become the inevitable consequence of everything that's come before it and a cruicial catalyst for everything comes after, rather than a set of actors saying the lines and that limp them over towards the next Plot Event that has to happen.

Yeah. All in all, I'm a pretty happy flower. :)
thewhitelily: (Default)
How did anyone write in the days before spreadsheets?

Cut for the shrunken spreadsheet of DOOM! )

If I were to print this out in eight point font and put it up on the corkboard above my desk, it would take eighteen A4 pages. Sweeeeet. Admitedly, six of them would be more like third-pages, but I'm claiming them anyway.

Since I shrunk it down so much, a rough explanation might be necessary: Chapters go down the left, one row each. Starting from the left, they have the number, the chapter title, the summary, then known carpet-gnawing bugs. Across the top go all the plot threads and directly under their titles, any specifics I've worked out need to be added but am not yet certain where. Each cell where a plot thread appears in a chapter is shaded the darker grey, while each cell where it's merely mentioned is the lighter grey. Text is red where I'm talking about what should be there, black if it's what is there.

So now I have a bird's eye view of the plot, the pacing, the foreshadowing, and the backstory. I've assigned proper plot threads to all the characters, concepts, and other bits and pieces that were important.

This means I can trace all my major and minor plot threads forward and backwards, spotting connections and parallels between previously unrelated bits and tying them into each other and the backstory. I can skip from here to there as my brain storms over the plot and slide ideas straight into place so that they're in just the right spot for if/when I want to write them. I can make sure that each individual character has their own story that makes sense from beginning to end, no matter how minor. I can keep an eye on each chapter to make sure there's enough stuff happening in it - and if there's not, find something appropriate that could do with a bit more meat and tie it in. I can keep an eye on threads that go too long without cropping up again, those that appear too late in the piece or have a twist that might not be adequately prepared, and those that don't seem to be related at all to anything else and need to be totally cut.

Aaaaaah. From here on, editing should be all downhill! :) Well, maybe not. But making decisions about what needs to go where will certainly be a whole lot easier!

So do I rock almost as much as Excel? Or am I a neurotic control freak with no artistic soul? I'm thinking both!
thewhitelily: (Default)
Yay, progress!

Major, major progress.

Most importantly, I've completely excised the main scenes and concepts which had been driving me to gnaw on the carpet. While the occasional section is still a little skeletal, I now have a solid framework with no real gaps, as such. Plot holes and inconsistencies galore, but nothing that just says "More Here".

I've also managed to make chapter 7 it work within its context, and do its job as a cohesive part of the story. I was stressing out over feeling like that chapter was random and totally pointless apart from my needing to introduce characters, but of course, I was trying too hard. Once I'd worked out the problem and built up the group dynamic in the right order, the tension crackled back onto the page as it becomes obvious there's an Approaching Train Wreck. Hurrah! Of course, it still needs a great deal of polishing of dialogue and tweaking of presentation, but the appropriate sentiments and information are now expressed and the whole scene feels like it belongs rather than just being stuck on the page, so I'm happy with it as a rough cut.

Now I've trimmed the biggest bits of chaff, the next step is going through the chapters I have now, point by point, and transcribing the plot points, thread counts, problems, and hopeful additions into the Big Excel Plotsheet, so that I see the entire plot at a glance, cogitate over it as a whole, then get on to actually doing what I'd hoped to start with: working chapter by chapter. I'll probably find more carpet-gnawing moments that I just don't happen to remember at the moment as I go, but I'm hopeful there won't be anything on the scale of what I've already dealt with.

Yay! This is what editing's all about!
thewhitelily: (Default)

Um. Hello.

I'm The White Lily, and I'm... totally rubbish.

It's not working, it's just not working, and I've spent the whole week running away from that rather than accepting it. It's not working.

In fact, I ended up spending the whole of Friday in bed with a migraine, whether because I've been stressed and tense, or whether I've not been sleeping well (related to the first), or whether I've caught a minor bug of sorts. Posting here is the first time I've looked at my laptop for more than two minutes at a time without having a panic attack in... well, since I finished work on Thursday.

For me, this is overwhelmingly bizarre. I generally can't go more than two minutes without looking at my laptop without feeling odd, but even at the moment my gut is roiling with low-level panic. Usually, E makes merciless fun of me because I check my email before I've even rubbed the sleep from my eyes, and will thus haplessly click on links such as this and spend the day with neon flashing colours burnt onto my retinas.

That something can keep me from my computer, even in a semi-comotose leave-me-alone state, is worrying.

And the most annoying thing of all is that I keep having good ideas, and people are helping me a huge amount by talking through various plot points with me, sparking off whole new plotlines of how they could be better in my head. I know things I can do to make it better, damnit, and I still can't get over myself enough to just do it!

Argh. Where's the "I hate myself and I want to die" board from the NaNo forums when I need it? E, I really hope you're doing better than I am at this whole thing.

  --  written yesterday by a Lily too depressed to press post.

And then the sun came out )

Fingers crossed for this evening, for which I have started another list of small, acheivable specifics, including:
1. Rewrite the other half of chapter 7, focussing on the Gary&Warrick dynamic. If all else fails, I can write three versions of it from scratch on a timer, and then mine them all for bits of dialogue/plot directions/etc. -- done
2. Rewrite or just if all else fails, plain delete the last sentence of each chapter, which like the chapter titles, are giving me nightmares. -- done
3. Remove all other references to the Awfulness Of Chapter 13, then scrub brain in bleach. -- done
4. Brainstorm Serendipity - the message, the club, the project, and the totally underused set of possible plot threads coming from it.

Lily, less depressed, signing out.
thewhitelily: (Default)
At length, I’m back. :) Yay, me!

My apologies for the lengthy absence. I know that a lot of my friends have been going through rather big things in the last month or two, and I’m sorry I haven’t been around on MSN or commenting on LJ posts or on Orion to keep up with it. I’ve been going through my own, comparatively minor, crisis of confidence which has unfortunately made me a little too self involved to have any attention to spare for other people. I've still been reading everyone's journals, even if I haven't been able to work up the energy to reply, and my thoughts are with you all. Sorry once again.

So here’s the problem. I’m seriously excited about editing Return to Sender. I really want to, I know what I have to do, I know what I have to fix.

But I’ve been having a panic attack every time I even think about starting in on actually doing it. No, I’m not being dramatic. I’m talking tachycardia, hyperventilation, dizziness, nausea, and the rest of my body’s responses to being completely lily-livered. It doesn’t go away until I think about something else for a few minutes and manage to convince my stupid brain that I’m not going back to it.

What the hell is wrong with me?

Usually, I love editing – editing makes me feel like I’m flying, and I want to dance and yell and whoop as I make connections and improve bits and pieces. I need to get into this fic seriously – I want to get into this fic seriously – but... I just can’t make myself start.

I’m never, ever, ever showing anyone something before I’m ready to do so. Never again. Because the moment it crosses my mind that someone has read some bit of awfulness that I wrote, I find myself completely paralysed, unable to even think, because I keep remembering: OMG, someone’s read this!

But maybe that’s not the main problem. Maybe the main thing is the sheer enormity of it all. Maybe all I need is to take it one day at a time, one chapter at a time, just a few words on top of a few words. It’s worked for me before, hasn’t it?

As such, I’m announcing day one of Lily’s Serious Novel Editing Push. Otherwise known as E month, because L-SNEP is a terrible name for anything, and I’ve made a pact with my friend E that if I finish editing Return to Sender, she’ll write up three chapters of her PhD. Each chapter gets two passes – the first day a rough edit and major earthworks pass, and the second a fine polish pass. Then I’m moving on. One step at a time.

So there we go. Problem solved. Has anyone ever known me to bow out of a challenge? Yes, apart from all you people who have.

Chin up, Lily, and head down. Let’s get to work.


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The White Lily

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