As an advocate for the Nanowrimo writing process, I firmly believe that a writer should write the rough draft of their novel as quickly as possible and let the words flow as they will. The most important thing to remember about writing a rough draft is to finish it without letting your inner editor stop you. Once you finish the rough draft, there is still plenty of work to do before you hand your manuscript to a hired editor and begin the publishing process.
Breaking it Down
When my rough draft is completed, I break the entire manuscript into scenes. A scene is defined by a single place and time in the story where action or dialog happens. I write a short synopsis of each scene in a paper notebook that I can remember and I color code it with highlighters. I label “good scenes”and “bad scenes”. Each type of scene is color coded with its own hue.
I understand that many people like to print out their manuscript and then cut up the paper into scenes and lay this out on story boards in their office. Others take the print out and hole punch the pages to fit in a large Filofax or office binder. The loose pages allow them to move the scenes around in the binder as they rearrange the scenes. While I love to use paper in my writing process, I tend to reserve it for outlining and brainstorming. It gives me a hard copy of what I’m working on that I can use as a referral beside my computer.
What I like to do with my scenes is to create a new project file in Scrivener for my revision, leaving my rough draft untouched in its original file. I break each of the chapters into scenes and keep them free of their chapter organization and lay them out in the new project file. Then switch to cork board view and I use the notebook where I wrote down all the scenes and use the meta-data labels to color code my scene files to match what is in my notebook and I type in each synopsis into the scene file’s index card. I like to label each scene with the character POV as well. Naturally, as I go through the manuscript, there are scenes there that I did not remember. I label those as “forgotten scenes” and there are places in the story line that have no scene associated with them and need to be added at a later time. I create a blank scene file, write a synopsis of what needs to be there and label it as a “missing scene”.
The Different Types of Scenes
Good: These are the scenes you feel great about as the author. They are the cornerstones of your plot and characters. They are scenes that are most likely to remain in the book during the editing process.
Bad: These are the scenes that when you reread them you wonder “what on earth was I thinking when I wrote this drek?”. These scenes will either be removed or rewritten during the revision process.
Forgotten: These are scenes that you wrote, but don’t really remember. They could be good or bad, but the fact that you did not remember them as you did your break down means that they are not strong and could probably use rewriting.
Missing: As you reread your manuscript, you realize that there are plot holes in your story without any scene to describe it. Write what is missing into your list of scenes as a synopsis. There is no scene as yet to cover this bit of information, but later there may be.
Building It Up
At this point, my manuscript looks like a huge mess. My 30 chapters are now well over 100 individual scenes. Some scenes are a few paragraphs in size, others are twice as long as a full chapter. Due to Scrivener’s meta-data capabilities, it is easy to see in my cork board where the scenes that need work are due to color coding. I focus on all the red “bad scenes” first. I target them for rewrites or removal. I look over the small single or double paragraph scenes and remove them in order to tighten up the novel over all. Because I have set the meta-data to show me the POV of each character, this is a good time to follow each main character via a scrivening. This means to look at only those scenes that the character appears in. I can read this set of scenes and check for the arc of each character, giving small content tweaks to help shape each character into stronger story arcs. As I work, my cork board shifts from a hodge podge of different colors into being all green “good scenes”.
Finally, I put the scenes into chapters again. Each chapter is a folder in Scrivener’s binder. I move all the scenes associated with that chapter into the folder. Most of the novel will simply go back into their original places, but there are always scenes that end up moving in places that I would have never thought up had I not broken down my manuscript. It is here that I check the chapter’s length and make them all as uniform as possible.
Ready For Self-Editing
So far, all the work that I’ve done in the novel has been for content. Do the story lines flow? Are the scenes all necessary to the plot of the story? Have I removed all those little transition scenes that sometimes clog the pace of a novel? The novel is still not ready to send to the editor. The copy editing stage still needs to be done. However, that is a story for another day.
What are the basic steps you use to prep your novel before you start the self-editing process?