Eleventh-hour plot restructuring
Making fiction-sausage doesn’t get much uglier than this. When Deaclan blew me off my story map a few days ago, I realized in short order that I had to rework the plot for this last section of the novel. My story bus gets hijacked frequently enough that I’ve actually got a methodology now. In the interests of full disclosure…
I’ve got two computers in my study. (Yes, I’m a geek. And I’m married to somebody in the computing industry, which means I have a great deal of tech support and the occasional hand-me-down from a defunct company, which is where I got Study Computer #2, my laptop.) I have an external monitor (another defunct-company hand-me-down) hooked up to my laptop, so there are two good monitors and a laptop screen at my disposal–which is a good thing, because it turns out I need to look at a lot of data at once when I’m developing fiction, particularly when I’m performing reconstructive surgery on a plot. So on one of my monitors I bring up Power Writer, the program in which I do all my fiction writing. (If you’re not familiar with Power Writer, and you write novels, this is a thing you want to know about: go here.) And on my other monitor, the one connected to the laptop, I bring up MS Word and start brainstorming in a new file. (Fortunately I’ve also got my favorite new productivity aid, Synergy, running, and can talk to both computers with one keyboard and mouse.)
In my brainstorming file, I ask myself questions like What does Edward want now? What is he afraid of? What is he going to do about it? and then attempt to answer those questions. The answers frequently surprise me, and always lead me to discover things that belong in my developing plot. But then, of course, I must also ask myself questions like What is Deaclan going to do about this thing Edward plans? — which leads me to even more plot points. All of these new plot points must be logged in my story file along with whatever notes I’ve got on them. I must go through this same exercise with each of my important characters, not just my PoVs.
In the process, for better or worse, I also discover pieces of motivation that have to be set up earlier in the story: things I was not consciously aware of until I began this exercise, even though they’ve been driving certain behaviors all along. Now I dive into earlier sections of the novel, layering in a few paragraphs of the rumination Deaclan favors (he says far more to the reader than to just about anybody else, as it turns out) or performing minor adjustments to existing dialogue.
Then, finally, I am left with a list of New Problems to solve: things I have determined characters will want or need to do, for which I don’t yet know the mechanics of how to accomplish them. They include issues such as the things one of two people who are functionally joined at the hip must do in order to effectively deceive the other, within the story rule-set, and — always the most challenging — how to accomplish certain bits of magic that Deaclan will decide are necessary.
It will be a couple days before I am writing sentences again, but it is already becoming obvious to me that I was wrong in my previous post: this novel is not going to come in shorter than anticipated. Silly me. I am going to have a hell of a time keeping it from getting *longer*. But it will definitely be a more exciting final act than I had previously planned.
And this, finally, is another reason why I write sequentially and accept the shenanigans of my unruly characters. I could never have imagined this story all at one go; it evolves as I write, and is much better for it. The novel that will finally go to press will include only a vanishingly small amount of what I originally expected to write, and the muse–who mostly doesn’t say much until I am putting words on the page–is better at this stuff than I. 🙂