Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Cleaning Out Your WIPS

No, you won't need leather cleaner for this step, but if you write anything like I do, you have a lot of twisted tales inside of tales you need to unravel, like extension cords in the garage, or whips at a whip store. Honestly, I didn't realize there this big a market for whips.

But I did recognize when my WIP - that's work in progress for you non-writer types - needed to be untangled, trimmed back, and worked out. A WIP is what your story is before you're done working on it. I'm a pantser. I start with an plot idea or a character that interests me and I let it flow. There's very little editing in my first draft. Often I let it sit and I add to it a little at a time as ideas occur to me, playing with different plot devices and characters until I have a feel for the story I really want to tell.

Then comes the second draft. That's the draft where I start organizing and often realize I still don't know what kind of story I want to tell. This is where I take that first critical look at what I've got. I read through, I see what I think works and what doesn't. I add some detail at this stage, but not much. I'm still working on character and plot.

The third draft involves sticky notes and a good section of wall. This is the point where some well-meaning person tells me how wonderful Scrivener is. Trying to explain to people how much of this story is in my head is difficult. I don't check notes as I write and the story doesn't come to me in bits and pieces. Scrivener confused the heck out of me and trying to use it to organize the story literally shut me down. I like my sticky notes and the random bits of paper that cover my desk. It works for me.

Anyhoo, draft three is where the editing process begins. This is where I start paying attention to structure. This changes the story. There's no help for that. As I'm writing out sticky notes, I also noticed I have five ships in this story. I knew that, in an esoteric, I-need-action-to-happen kind of way. I really only need three ships. My story is overloaded. Cut and cut. Write the entire eco warrior theme out. Like that stack of unread cooking magazines on the end of my desk, it's in the way and accomplishing very little. Like two extra ships, it's story clutter and now it's gone.

I'm on my fourth draft for my latest space opera, Crane's War. The most obvious missing element from this story is the war itself. It's in my head and on a few notes after draft three, but I still have to work it in, bring out the class warfare angle I really want to press into the forefront of the story without taking my soldiers completely out of the military corp.

Or do I want them out? In or out? Where does each decision lead? More diagrams and sticky notes, more short snippets regarding the options. Hmm. I'm really leaning toward out today. Is that because that's where the story is taking me? Or is the fact that I'm ready to move on my real time life affecting the decisions I make inside the story?

Does it matter? Possibly, if I do a series, but a stand alone? Not so much. Permission to bring it, Commander Crane. Bring it. 

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