Tag Archives: Post-its

Writing Fiction: Me and Pack of Post-its 2

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I am always slightly amazed when things I had intended to do actually happen.  Normally, it’s just me plodding forwarded through a hailstorm of self-doubt.  Ten days ago, I set out to put one-line summaries of all the old and new chapters of my novel onto Post-its, so that I could sort out the new structure.  Yesterday, I finished – hoorah!

It may sound like a simple enough task, but the problem I had faced was that, in a novel of alternating points-of-view, the established character, Elspeth, had eighteen chapters; the new one, Joy, now had forty.  There were all sorts of meanderings and shenanigans.

The first thing I did was to set the Post-its aside.  It was clear that, initially, a temporary format wouldn’t be enough.  I needed a reference document where I could note chapter numbers and any amendments, as well as the basic plot line.   I created a table on Word, one column for each character.  Just seeing the names there, side-by-side, Elspeth and Joy, I felt a real sense of potential.  I know a lot more about Joy now and together they complement one another.  The story is quite different to what I envisioned when I started writing six years ago.

I had intended to leave the discarded character’s (Barry) chapters out of Elspeth’s column.  But I realised it would raise questions for me about the original structure when it came to review.  I also found it helpful to mark the quarter, half and three-quarter points in the story.

Two things immediately became apparent.  First, Joy, a comedian, needed an opening chapter setting out clearly who she is.  Secondly, there was no obvious point at which she had agreed to work with Elspeth – and she lacked a convincing motivation to do so.

Transferring the chapters from columns to Post-its, each character’s point-of-view chapters got a different colour.  This made it obvious where there was doubling, or lack of balance.  Some nice shortcuts presented themselves, and I was able to drop a chapter I’ve always had a problem with.  I read the order of the first-quarter chapters out to my girlfriend, and it was interesting to watch her reaction and get feedback.

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Overall, I’m pleased. A project to rewrite the novel, that started in January, is on track. I like the new character, she brings energy that was lacking.

Onward to the next stage. There are chapters to create, rewrite and edit. Eventually I’ll have a pre-draft draft. One that needs just one more polish to be declared a finished version.

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Writing Fiction: Me and a Pack of Post-its

Second stage of the twelfth draft done.  All the new chapters I had written to introduce the new character have now been revised, to make them even more reflective of that character.  Some had already been re-written for writers’ groups.  But it now means the forty-two chapters with her in them are up-to-date.

Which leads to the next stage.  The novel is told from two characters’ points of view, by alternating chapters.  By my estimate there are about twenty-one from the established character and now forty-two from the new one.  Somehow, they’ve got to fit together.

One the reasons for the disparity is that, in writing the new character, I allowed myself to follow hunches and go off-piste, meandering away from the boundaries of the original structure.  Very good for creating the freedom for the character to flourish; not so good for putting it all back together again.

Which is why, yesterday, I stood in the Rymans opposite Charing Cross Station, looking at their full range of Post-its: heart-shaped, arrows, full traditional squares, little flappy ones, colourful spirals.  I picked the pack of small-squares.  Four different colours, one for each character and the extra ones for their subplots.

I’ll go back through the chapters, write a brief account of each on a Post-it, then see what it all looks like when I arrange it all on the table.  The advantage being that they are easily moved around.

I’m looking for a clear structure and perhaps new insights into the ways in which their stories intertwine. I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to let go of some more writing I like.

I’ll let you know how I get on.