Vision: A Resource for Writers
Lazette Gifford, Editor
Vision@sff.net

IN A REVISION RUT?  
TRY 52 INDEX CARD PICKUP

 By Carol J. Stephenson 

2002, Carol J. Stephenson 


One of the hardest tasks a writer can face is the revision letter.  Here she has a completed manuscript, and <gasp> the editor needs changes before she'll buy.  The required tinkering can range from Band-Aid to Demolition Derby.

After I met with my writing pals and brainstormed my second revision letter for Nora's Pride, I faced the Herculean project of figuring where all these lovely new ideas should fit.  The structure of my completed manuscript stood as an unyielding barrier to any remodeling.  I kept looking at a chapter and saying to myself, "But I like this scene.  This line is perfect!"  Every protective fiber of my being quivered with righteous indignation -- so on I flipped, looking for another spot.  The holes to plug in the new scenes never materialized because all my lines were perfect.  Hadn't I filled an ocean with sweat and tears over the writing of this book?

Yet I knew I somehow had to march past this blockade.  If the chapters were so perfect, then there would be no revision letter, right?

Right.  Over the years, I've been part of discussions on various plotting techniques.  I decided to use one -- with my own twist, naturally.  I took a stack of multicolored index cards and for each scene listed one to two lines on each card.  I used pink for heroine POV, blue for hero POV, purple for turning points and neon yellow for the brainstorming ideas.  Nowhere on the card did I indicate a chapter or scene reference.  I next spread the cards on the floor and placed the purple cards [turning points] as peaks.  Then I began to play by lining cards to and from the peaks.  I kept shifting them around until a flow began to appear.  Those scenes that didn't fit or seem strong enough to stand on their individual merit were flipped over and shoved to the side.  I laid blank neon cards for those areas needing a new scene.

After I was satisfied with the layout, I placed the cards in photograph sleeves.  Since I average three scenes per chapter, I used the 3-sleeved variety.  Again, I checked both the sequence and the strength of each card.  I found a few more to pitch to the reject pile.  These colorful sleeves now reside in my notebook.

By using method, I was able to move beyond the existing structure of my book and freeform a "visionary" plan.  What was my black moment is now my first turning point.

Caught in a revision rut?  Do 52-index-card pickup.