Tuesday, 13 May 2014

SIMPLY GETTING ORGANIZED



Holding an entire novel of however many thousands of words in your head is quite a feat, and having your novel laid out in front of you in small bite sized pieces is an excellent way to spot weaknesses in plot lines and structure.

For instance if you’ve ever lost track of which characters did what, where and when, or if you’re reading through that last intensive edit you slaved over, and you notice your main character has a meeting in one chapter and in the following one happens to leave for the same meeting, then making use of index cards is a simple solution which enables you to look over your story in a clear-cut manner. 

You can summarize one chapter per card, noting what events take place and where. This enables you to move the cards and play around noticing if some chapters work better either earlier or later than your current order. Or cut chapters/events – if that is what is needed.

If your novel is multi-stranded, have a different colour card for each strand; when laid out in columns it’s easy to perceive how the rising action/climax/falling action/conclusion arcs complement each other. If you have chapters containing flashbacks, using another colour for those chapters shows you at a glance if the balance between current action and recall of past events is a good one. 

However, another way to benefit from these handy little bits of card is for scene assessments. Choose a chapter that has several scenes, and using one card per scene, write the outline of the action that takes place. 
For example:

Immediate and extended family gather together for wealthy grandfather’s eightieth birthday at family mansion.
Younger children are playing outside in the garden, one climbs a tree, falls and breaks a leg.
Old rifts resurface as an argument breaks out between adults as to who is at fault (main action).
Upset parents go with child to hospital in ambulance.

After you’ve written out your cards in this way, check each scene has a definite beginning and end point plus a mini-arc of rising and falling action. You can also move scenes around to see if placing them in an alternate order moves the story forward more smoothly. Transitions between scenes, as well as the rhythm of action scenes contrasting with quieter ones become clearer.

I don’t work with Scrivener or any of the other excellent writing programs available, because I haven’t found the time to explore how they work, but I imagine they must eliminate most of the above problems. In the meantime, index cards as an organizational tool are a great aid to visualizing your story, are cheap, available at all stationery shops, and don’t need any instructions or practice!

Writing Update

I’m making good progress adding research details and working through the second edit of The Unforgiveness of Blood©, and I hope to finish by the 25th May as I’m managing two chapters a day...so fingers crossed! One aspect I’m paying attention to is making sure my protagonist’s internal conflict doesn’t disappear amongst the multitude of swarming supernaturals that constitute the external conflict (okay, I’ve used a little artistic licence in the latter half of that sentence).

Part of my brain is meditating on a cover, for both the current WIP and for An Unstill Life©.  You can find great covers over on Wattpad, so more research coming up in that direction. And I’m getting flashes of ideas for the second book in my supernatural trilogy, and keep having to run and scribble them down before they fly off into the ether. I have to admit, that even if no-one ever buys a single copy, I'm enjoying myself.

Today’s Haiku
conversation ebbs
and flows, threatens to drown me -
I breathe deep and wait

Useful links:
A detailed look at using index cards from The Writer’s Digest.
http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/there-are-no-rules/create-structure-in-your-fiction-using-index-cards

I’d love it if you popped over to Wattpad and read any of my posted stories...just click on the titles to the right.

Join me on Twitter at: teagankearney@modhaiku  
Thanks for visiting my blog, and please do leave a comment.
To all story lovers out there, good reading, and to those of you who write, good writing.

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Apart from writing, I'm compiling a bucket list of places I'd like to  visit...from Iceland to Hawaii and onwards....
         

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