Creative Efficiency and Rubber Bands
By Anne Hawkinson
Think big, think small. Imagine the entire story, but don’t forget the smallest of details. Sometimes my mind feels like a rubber band, stretching to its outer limit while remaining stationary and focused. As a writer, I have to be able to do both.
The first draft of my story is complete in all of its pathetic glory. It’s not very good – there are huge gaps and lots of unanswered questions. It was hard not to go back and edit, because I like to correct what is wrong before moving ahead (in my life and in my writing). But the goal was to get the entire story out of my head and down on paper. I achieved that. It felt good. Really good. And as I pawed through the pathetic, I found a lot of good bits, unearthing nuggets to a really good story.
I needed to wrestle my first draft into a manageable document for the second. While trying to do this, I tried out several ways of re-writing the story and making it better than the first draft. I discovered that plotting is my weak spot – I have great scenes and present wonderful scenarios, but don’t always have the story going where it should, or I send my characters down a dead end road into oblivion. My patient, dedicated writing coach/editor and I agonized through the process over the course of several meetings and that’s where my own Divide and Conquer method was born.
I love how it works. Creative efficiency. For example, it eliminates the time and effort spent writing a five-page scene that ends up going nowhere and has to be trashed. It works for me because I like efficiency (yes creative minds can be efficient and organized) and it helps me bring order, bit by bit, to my chaotic, first draft as it morphs into the second.
First, we used the plot clock to organize the story into the four major quadrants (for my genre – middle grade, about 50 pages each) and labeled them accordingly. Then, I went back and outlined each scene (15-20) of the first quadrant (some were pared down, some were merged, and some were eliminated so you have to write extras). After review and revision, it is “good to go.” Quadrant One: Done! But not “done done.”(Final edits will take place once the entire second draft is complete.) So, done for now. Since I already wrote the story once (the reward for getting it out of head and onto paper), it was a matter of keeping the good bits and re-writing the rest. Sounds easy, but it’s not. But it was easier than going back and starting over from scratch.
On to Quadrant Two. More scene outlining, and meeting with my coach/editor. Some scenes will be dropped, some need enhancement, and there will be new ones to create.
Back to the stretching rubber band. At the same time I’m focusing on the Second Quadrant, I have to plot out the entire search process for my main character and her two friends from the time they begin, where they go, and where the answer to the riddle is hidden (vital plot points to the entire story). I’m grateful for a fresh, flexible rubber band, because a loud snap in the wee hours of the morning would be bad.