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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Scalpel, Please: Part 2

I’m working on dissecting a novel, going from big picture to details. Not a novel I’ve written, but one I’ve read. Once I get the big picture elements fixed in my mind, my focus grows narrower.

I open to the first page in my notebook and write:
Chapter 1.
Whose POV are we in?
Where are we?
When are we?
What’s at stake here?

As best I can, I summarize the chapter’s events in two to four sentences. This is tricky, but benefits me as a writer two ways: I learn to summarize. This is important when writing my own synopsis.

Also, I learn the scene/chapter goals. If I can’t write down the goal/purpose of my own scene or chapter, I need decide if it belongs in the story. I do this, chapter after chapter, until I reach the end. The process may take a while, but for me, this is essential as I break the novel down to see its structure first chapter by chapter.

I envy writers who craft a novel and the plot springs forth intuitively. For some writers, like me, the plot sometimes takes twists and turns that are more like detours in the country, and I start wondering where I made a wrong turn. This is why I’ve tried studying story structure, hoping that one day I too will write more intuitively.

After I’ve analyzed the book chapter by chapter, I look at the whole outline and try to answer these questions:

Which chapters/scenes were the most poignant to me, ones that seemed to matter most?
Why did the author choose this particular POV for a chapter/scene? Maybe I don’t know this for sure, but I hope I can make a good guess.

Next time it's my turn, I'll share more about those scenes.


Blogger Ron Estrada said...

I'm getting better about using more detailed outlines. I've had many debates with so-called seat-of-the-pants writers. First of all, in a good mystery, there's no way to create good twists on the fly. It has to be planned to work. Second of all, an SOP writer normally has to make major revisions to the plot on the second and third drafts. So, in reality, the first draft is just a very long outline. I've been down that road myself. I'll stick to outlining!

1:34 PM  
Blogger Lynette Sowell said...

Wee! Hey Ron! I'm so glad someone commented, 'cause I know I'm not the only one who likes to take books apart and see how they work. I don't have time to mess around on getting stuck in detours or side trips. :) I'm all for being spontaneous and every once in a while characters surprise me, but I like to know where I'm going...for the most part.

1:14 AM  

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