Oh, the Pain and Suffering!

Okay, maybe the title’s a little melodramatic. Then again, maybe not. I’m in the midst of the second draft of GENESIS. Uh, yeah, the novella that’s supposed to be out in a few months. And I really need to get it to crit-partners ASAP if I’m ever going to make that deadline.

I’m at a point, however, where I feel like I’ve been cut open and my insides have been pulled out and twisted around, kind of like that scene in “Braveheart.” Except they’re also being stuffed back in, but won’t fit. Yes, it’s quite painful! Not to mention gross. This is also where I am with revisions of DEVOTION – the reason I put it aside for a while to focus on GENESIS.

Both have a couple scenes that just aren’t working. They need to be completely rewritten with different scenes that accomplish the same goals as the originals, only better. But if I make them too different, characters’ behaviors and reactions to those scenes will change, causing a ripple effect throughout the rest of the book. Other parts would need to be changed as a result. Changes I don’t like. I don’t think. I don’t know. And that indecision just causes more pain and suffering and indecision. It’s an evil cycle, I tell you.

You probably know, having gone through it yourself. So I’m giving a new approach a try. I’m reading Novel Shortcuts: Ten Techniques That Ensure a Great First Draft by Laura Whitcomb. She’s developed a process for herself called “shortcuts to the scene” that I’m going to give a try. I think it’s a little too structured for my pants-favoring self, at least to do before the first draft, but I think it will help me write these scenes. Here are the steps, using a blank sheet of paper or screen:

  1. Write a paragraph about what must happen in this scene – “the goal, the conflict, what will remain unresolved.” This includes both internal and external actions.
  2. List what must be said – the dialogue. You don’t have to write it word for word, but get down what needs to be said. Don’t use tags, just initials for who needs to say it. Whitcomb suggests making this a different font (or color, if doing this by hand) or, at least, bold it.
  3. Do a ten-minute “heartstorm.” It’s like a brainstorm, but using the heart, not the head. “Feel the scene, the emotions, the sensations, the wonder…. Think of the emotions involved, the smells, tastes, scents, textures, sounds.” Like brainstorming, this isn’t a time to judge or censor. Just get it out. Then you highlight or bold 10 or more of your favorite phrases, making them stand out.
  4. Now print (if you did this in Word), lay the page (yes, it should be just one page) next to your keyboard and use it as a cheat-sheet. She calls it a “menu” – she orders something from one of the three parts to open the scene and then pulls together the pieces she needs to write out the entire scene. The dialogue, in its different font or color, stands out so she can refer to it easily. The key phrases she wants to use from the heartstorm are also easy to see.

I don’t know if it’ll work well for me or not, but I think since I already know what must happen in this scene because of what’s already happened in the rest of the book, it just might be what I need to get beyond this indecision. I hope. I’ll let you know how it goes.

It would be nice to feel comfortably whole again, intestines intact. 

Are rewrites as painful for you as they are for me? Do you have any special process or technique that helps you get through them? If so, please share! What do you think of Whitcomb’s “shortcuts to the scene”?

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2 Responses to Oh, the Pain and Suffering!

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