Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The final countdown

I've wandered my way through the wilds of the first draft, conquered Second Draft Land, and now I'm into new territory- The Final Draft.

Scary new territory at first- what do I do? Where do I go? How do I get from a passable-but-still-not-complete-or-for-that-matter-great second draft, to a polished, pretty, perfect final draft?

Well, here's what this obsessive outliner, plotter, planner and deconstructor is doing.

Here's what my main Scrivener window looks like at the moment:

Click on the picture to enlarge, and you'll see a whole range of components that explain how I'm tackling the conversion of my second draft into my final draft (click on any of the following pictures to enlarge).

First up- the chapters are listed down the left. You can see from the following close-up that some are blue, some are red, and some are brown.

The blue ones are my friends- they're the finished chapters that already do just what I want 'em to. The red ones are friends-to-be- chapters that I haven't tackled yet, having either skipped over them or having added them after my final draft plotting bonanza.

The brown ones are not my friends. They're the chapters that were written with a particular goal in mind- before the goal posts shifted. They're great chapters, but they're no longer useful in the story, and need rewriting before they work again. The work on these ranges from minor to very extensive.

Here's a closer look at the start of a blue chapter.

It's got the setting and the time, and the writing is solid. Nothing too major to change- plenty of reviewing, adding and tweaking, that is, but all the action and the dialogue is so far taking the story where I want it to go. I do, of course, have a little tack-on at the end outlining anything that *does* need to change in this chapter, just to remind myself.

Here's a closer look at a red chapter. This is unwritten, and only has a couple of lines that remind me what I want to do with the chapter, and why I need it.

And here's a closer look at a brown chapter. The writing is there, and it's solid, except it's not all useful anymore. At the top, I've outlined the new direction I need to take, and this is what will guide me in revising it.

Next, this shows you one of my Collections. It's close to my favourite feature of Scrivener 2.0- you start a collection, then choose the chapters you want to include. The highlighted example in this picture is my War Subplot- and I've gathered together all the chapters that are relevant to that particular part of the story.

Doing this doesn't affect the order of the chapters in the main binder. In fact, I can shuffle the chapters in my collection around without having any impact on the way they're organised in the main list. This is brilliant, because I can try out different configurations without having to commit to moving everything. I can also draw into this collection any relevant research. When you change something within one of the chapters, however, it changes in both the collection and the main list.

Next, my synopsis index cards. I summarise each chapter on the little card in the top right corner, and eventually I'll be able to collate a complete synopsis from these without needing to write it all out all over again. Doing this now also helps me take a big picture view of each chapter.

Speaking of which, the following shows the document notes I'm also writing up for every one of my 47 chapters:

I start with the purpose of the chapter and the author agenda, intending to identify why this scene belongs in the story, and what it achieves.

I then move on to whose POV I'm using, and their agenda- what do they want to achieve in this scene? What's the driving force behind what happens?

I'm also looking at what comes before and after each chapter to make sure it's all working together. And then I'm listing out the beginning, middle and end of each chapter to make sure there's a good story flow.

Lastly, I'm talking about scene/ sequel- a very useful bit of advice I came across while putting together information for the CompuServe Books and Writers Forum December/ January Toolbox exercise on writing endings (including chapter endings). I've come across this advice before, but it never really stuck until now- effective scenes in novels often occur in a pattern called scene and sequel. In the first chapter of the pair, a problem is introduced- but not solved. No, the chapter ends on a question that keeps the reader wanting more. The second chapter of the pair is the sequel, in which the question is answered- and another asked. In this manner, the story keeps moving forward. I've been looking at all my scenes in this way through the final draft, checking to make sure the tension carries from chapter to chapter, and so far so good.

Very lastly, I have a couple of documents now sitting at the top of my research folder- one's a strategy, in which I've brainstormed how to do all the things I've just explained- I've also used that to brainstorm major plot points that need reworking or strengthening. The other's a relationship document, in which I've teased out and clarified all the aspects of the love triangle that is the core of my story. Of all the things I need clear right now, that's top of the list.

So, there you have it- one more highly organised approach from me to give the chunksters/ pantsters amongst us a heart attack :) People have, now and again, considered me insane for the extraordinary amount of pre-planning I undertake before I start writing- but it works for me, and that's what counts.

Back to it! I'm already enjoying the results of all this work- several key plot points and character arcs have now fallen neatly into place, and await their tweaking to become better versions of themselves.


  1. Wow this is fascinating! I have to admit, I'm not a panster, I write everything down really fast first - mostly dialogue so I know what's happening. Then I go back bit by bit, paragraph by paragraph, sentence by sentence, word by word to get it right. I type and then print then get out the red pen and go mad, then make notes and use a highlighter and number things, then write and repeat etc etc etc. Atm I'm only writing short stories to get a feel for the writing process, so this method I'm using is ok for a few pages, but I think the program you're using is a much much better idea :-)

  2. Hey Dani! I'm the ultimate outliner- I like to do things in a linear way, but I also like to plan, plan, plan everything. In terms of actual writing, though, I also tend to whack down the dialogue first, then go back and plump it out. If I let myself do that before I finished a draft, though, I'd be stuck there forever- I've found I have to keep moving on to the end, then go back through the whole thing. I'm pretty intimidated by the amount of word-by-word I have to do now :P

    Scrivener is the best program ever. You can get a one month free trial (I bought the full version when I'd had the trial for about three days- knew I couldn't live without it) and it's now available in Windows as well as Mac...

  3. I love Scrivener!! and yay, Western Australia! :D

    I didn't realise you could do that colour-coding thing in Scrivener.

  4. Hmm, definitely something to check out.....:-)

  5. Love this organization! Even without Scrivener, I do the same sorts of things (whether in Word, Excel, or on paper). The only difference is, I do it all after [vbg]
    If I tried to do this stuff before, I'd never get any words written...

  6. @Trisha- yay Western Australia! :) Hehe. I've just twisted my opening chapters to add more Perth. You can always add more Perth :P The colour coding thing is simply a right click on the icon for each chapter, and a whole list of options to change the icon come up. It's one of the good new features in 2.0.

    @Deniz- I couldn't have done this organisation before the 2nd draft was finished. I needed to write it all before I could figure out how to put it together, or I wouldn't have got it done, either (g). The final draft is less about writing new stuff and more about tweaking what I already have.