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J. J. Brown, Wordslinger

"I Sling Words As I Go Along."

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revision

So, I’m working on Novel Now Finished revisions……

…….adding snippets of information back into the story and taking a section that’s summarized and make it into a full-fledged scene.  The snippets are back in, after a couple of tense hours of wrestling with phrasing and word placement.  That was easy compared to what I now have to do with the summarized bit that needs to be a full on scene.

First, I had to print out the pages that contain all that summarizing.  Why?  Because it’s long enough that it actually requires its own scene.  Therefore, it’s too long to remember it without hard copy to reference.  Having a hard copy makes it easier to transform the summary into an active scene.  I will most likely be writing this out in long-hand, in a hand dandy notebook that I keep in my backpack.  I don’t like carrying my laptop around for something that I’ll most likely be spending more time thinking about than writing about.

The Manuscript in Question.

Simple, right?

It gets complicated.

How does it get complicated, you ask?  It’s just a summarized form of the action, it should be easy to flesh out.  You’ve got a pen, a notebook, the printed copy of the necessary pages.  There are ideas swirling and creative juice going.

How is that complicated?

I’m glad you asked.

I still need to figure out who’s Point of View this is being told from.  Is it the retired captain?  The vagabond?  The lovesick girl?  The vampire in the basement?  Professor Plum in the library with the knife?

So many questions……

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So, I’m about thirty chapters into Novel Now Finished revision…..

……and it’s going.  I’ve finally worked out the timeline of the novel from beginning to end and it comes out to about a week.  While there’s a lot going on, the bulk of the action seems to be happening on the weekend, beginning on Friday and ending on Monday.

A lot always seems to happen on the weekend.

Had I thought about it a little more, I would have set up Novel Now Finished much in the same way that I had set up Secrets & Howls.  In that book, I had designed it to take place over the course of a week.  To clarify this point, I placed an independent page stating the day of the week, followed by the chapters that took place over the course of that day and then ended the day with a segment of a letter from 1852.  Then it would start all over again, until the novel ended with the final fragment from 1852.

But it was also a different kind of story than Novel Now Finished, which had always felt more fluid with its time than structured.  This is in part due to the fact that Secrets & Howls is told primarily in third person, with the ability to dip into the lives of various other characters and places without breaking the narrative.  Novel Now Finished is told in first person and, with very few exceptions, remains that way throughout.

Still, in keeping a timeline for any novel, it helps to keep the story’s continuity flowing and if you’re really on top of it, you’ll catch errors before it goes into print.  Whether it’s in third, first or second Point of View, it’s a helpful aid in keeping track of your characters and their actions within the story.

All I can say now is, whew!

The Manuscript in Question.

 

So, I’m revising Novel Now Finished…..

……and apparently, it decided that, yes, there is indeed a timeline.  Which I already knew about, because the bulk of the story takes place a few weeks before summer.  I wasn’t particular about the exact dates beyond the number of days between separate incidents.  And for the most part, it seemed to work swimmingly.

Except, now I’m going through and cutting needless words and cleaning up paragraphs that are left behind.  And the more I cut and revise and clean up, the clearer the story becomes.  And the clearer the story gets, the more details I’m finding about the timeline.  Vague, throwaway lines like “Oh, it happened a few days ago” will find it harder to survive.  Concise statements like “It was on Sunday” will take over.

So now, I’ve got a Word document in place to keep track of the timeline and help minimize confusion (which would be mine). This will also help keep it clear and concise for readers (which would be you, if I may be so lucky).  As of today, I’ve managed to track one week, beginning with a case of vandalism.  It’s a few sentences long, with the timeline basically being the day of the week, followed by a dash (-) and a short sentence describing the event that occurred on that day.

I haven’t decided on actual dates beyond the month, but that will change at some point.  I’m a little over a hundred pages into the revision as I write this blog, but as I go along, that timeline will grow and become as detailed as necessary.

And then I’ll go back and do it all over again.

The Manuscript in Question.

So, I’m re-writing my Ancient Greek comedy……

……and I kept coming back to a quote regarding writing and editing. It was made by Arthur Quiller-Couch in his 1914 Cambridge lecture “On Style” and it has been widely popularized by the likes of William Faulkner, Alan Ginsberg and Stephen King, to name a few – “Murder your darlings”.

In other words, be as verbose as you want in your writing, but cut the unnecessary fluff when going back to editing, revision, and re-writes.

As I began working on revising and re-writing my play, I noticed that some of the dialogue as it stood was far better suited to the narrative form, rather than script-form. ‘Wordy’ would be a better description, actually, and I was able to cut down on the number of words while keeping the integrity of the line intact.

In some cases, this was fairly easy. In others, not so much.

I’m eleven pages into this re-write of the original script, which topped out at fifty-plus pages. I’m also re-formatting it, to script guidelines, so the structure is also different. There are the requisite stop-starts as I come to scenes that require a bit more creative thinking before weaving the new changes into what’s already there.

An example of this is giving one character his voice back. As written originally, his dialogue was sound and light cues, so I’ve paused there to really look at another character’s reactions to him. I have to ask myself what was said to make the second character react in outrage or frustration and the more specific I am, the funnier the scene will be. Changes will occur, as it always does, but it’s an interesting process to see what chaos might ensue.

(Then again, considering that this play is about the gods and goddesses of ancient mythologies, chaos might be an understatement.)

So, when writing your tales of wonder, be as wordy, as verbose, as flowery as you like. Just remember that, when editing and revising, wordy is not always better, so trim the fat, weed out the excess.

Murder your darlings.

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