Last week in my blog post about revision tips I talked about using your Plot diagrams as working drawings. They act kind of like a map – show you whether you’ve stayed focussed on your story or whether you have been sidetracked along the way. I don’t know about you, but I find this pretty easy to do. Sometimes characters seem to take me off on a complete tangent.
Today I’m talking about revising a story that is less structured and has evolved through a more organic process. My MG survival story, GAME ON seemed to develop as scenes in my head. I spent two years travelling around Australia with my husband and very small children so I guess it’s hardly surprising that so much of the landscape is very vivid in my head – as are the hazards of crocodile infested waters, snakes under the car, heat etc.
I knew who my characters were and what they wanted and draft one was complete. But the story more or less came together as episodes which meant that part of the revision process was about turning it into an actual plot – with dramatic tension, something major at stake for the main character, a climax and a resolution.
I started with a number of visual cues from which I developed scenes
1. The scene where my character finds out they are going on the trip that’s going to leave them stranded in the Australian wilderness (but they don’t know that yet).
2. The scene where the kids get separated from their parents so they have to now fend for themselves.
3. Wild camel scene
4. Dying of thirst scene
5. Dingo encounter scene
6. Snake encounter scene
(I know, that’s a lot of adversaries, but seriously, there are a lot of hazards out there in the outback)
Oh, and I wanted to stick a crocodile in there somewhere but I figured that had to come at the end – after they got out of the desert – when they were crossing the river to try and get to Broome.
REVISING MY FIRST DRAFT
So this is how the first draft revision happened.
1. List scenes
2. Revisit my character
- Who Is he?
- What does he really want? (to survive)
- What is stopping him getting what he wants? Hmm, the snake, the crocodile, the camel, the dingo?
- How is he going to overcome these obstacles?
3. Decide on the order of my scenes
I had my inciting incident…I knew what was going to happen to get my main character Jack out of his comfortable house and on his way to the desert. The next step was to decide what would happen there. I needed something to radically change for his situation to get a lot worse – this would be the first turning point – the thing that would take the story in a new direction. This was the thing that would force Jack to confront his opponent (nature) on his own. This seemed like the logical place to get rid of his parents (not permanently – just for the duration of the book).
I needed a bit of humour to help build the tension, so that meant adding a couple of scenes and then it was on to the midpoint reversal. This was where Jack encountered a problem that would change the entire direction of the story. This is where he realises that he’s not just responsible for his own life, he’s also responsible for his little sister, Flick.
And of course just when he’s starting to get things under control, they have to go badly wrong again, don’t they?
But not as badly wrong as what happens in the climax. Here he has to get his gravely ill sister across crocodile infested waters.
So just by thinking about Jack’s inner conflict, about raising the stakes for him, about making things harder and forcing him to really fight for his survival, I devised my plot – I turned my scenes into a story.
4. Transition scenes. Now that I knew the order of events in the story I had to look at my transition scenes. Did they still make sense? Were they getting my characters to where I needed them to be? Were they giving the reader enough information? Did they allow the reader into the heart and mind of my main character – so they could feel and understand the full extent of what he was going through?
5. The ending. When I revised the ending of Game On, I looked at whether things had been resolved for both my character and the reader. Had I tied up all the lose ends for the reader? After experiencing such a harrowing tale of survival, was my character different enough at the end of the book from the city kid who had set out on his holiday looking forward to time off school?
These are just the revisions for draft two. While I’m revising I make a list of things to be done in the next draft. That way I have a checklist to follow…and it can always be added to as I go.
As I mentioned last week, this is just how I do things. Everyone has their own methods. I hope some of this has been helpful to you.
I’d love to hear your tips on how you revise. Feel free to leave them in the comments section of this post.
Happy writing and revising:)