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. 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