I’m eclectic. I don’t adhere to this way or that way blogging. Today is the letter E in the A to Z Blog Challenge and I don’t have a particular theme. That’s okay.
It’s who I am. At least as a blogger. I like history. I like art. I like culture and fashion. But when it comes to story structure and getting the edits and reedits done, there are no shortcuts. No magic wand, no a little of this and none of that. More like a lot of this and much more of that…and more…and more…and you may be asking how much more? Much More.
Writing is talent for sure, but endurance and sticking to the plan and cranking out the edits are where the writer will stand or fall. When people come to me about writing and ask questions I get excited. I love to inspire newbies with ideas. I listen and watch. I look for the glaze in their eyes when I talk structure. I look for scales falling as I tell them writing is hard and the easiest thing they can do for themselves is learn structure on the front-end.
If they slink away or enthusiasm dampens, I know they won’t make it. If your obsessive enough to stay the course, you’ll get there. Take editing. As new writers we think finishing the manuscript is the end-game, but it’s the first step. If you haven’t taken formal writing classes or workshops, you’ll quickly find that no matter how great your idea, the structure is off. So you begin the arduous task of editing your novel. You learn structure on the back-end.
Maybe you make the draft sparkle with successive passes. You get some guidance under your belt. Maybe you’ve joined a critique group (yeah!), and you’re CPer’s see the makings of a good story.
You’ll have to rewrite that novel, especially if you’re a panzter, over and over many times to get it right. It can be done. The old adage, put the first novel away in a drawer and write another is sound. IF you have no hope of revisiting the manuscript, grow bored with the story (it happens), or didn’t write the thing linear in the first place. But if you love you’re first novel, are committed to reworking it, rewriting it perhaps five or six times, experimenting with POV and flipping viewpoints, you can make that first novel shine. Guess what, it then becomes a third book, a fourth book and a fifth. Only if you study structure and approach each draft as a surgeon.
Resources on Structure
James Scott Bell’s Revision and Self-Editing is a great place to start. Plot and Structure is also a must. What I love about Bell is the ease with which he presents quick fixes and tips that anyone can overcome. The hurdles of learning structure and editing the novel become lighter. Much of what I learned about structure came through the editing process, and seeing what works. Bell’s challenge is the quickest, fast and dirty way to learning story structure that I know. I did it and it was a game-changer.
It’s not easy. Few will have the patience to do it. You might want to give up. Don’t, I promise it works.
Take 6 books you want to read that you admire. Look for a range of works. Ones you’ve read before are fine but read critically. First, read for pleasure. Note what works, what doesn’t. Read again, but this time, deconstruct each scene with an index card, again making note of what worked and what didn’t. You’ll be amazed at how fast you begin to get it. How quickly you apply these principles to others works, how critical you will become and how you will see the flaws in your own story. Now arrange all the index cards novel by novel. If that doesn’t infuse story structure in your mind, if you don’t see behind the curtain, you never will.