I've spent the last two weeks outlining and rewriting the final chapters.
Since I'm a new writer, I try and seek out as much advice as I can. One of my favorite articles on outlining and revision came through Cheryl Klein's blog, Brooklyn Arden. Anita Nolan's "The End" is only the beginning...a step-by-step guide to refining your manuscript has been very helpful in providing concrete advice. I've been using her methods for a few months now.
One of my favorite sections in her approach is to make a list of scenes (within chapters is fine). Number them and write down how many pages in that scene. The idea is to check and make sure the scenes aren't too skimpy. Too many slight scenes can make a chapter too fragmented. I know I was guilty of this. I had proof!
By going over each scene, counting the number of pages it took up and deciding what plot point it was connected to, my scenes went from choppy to (hopefully) fluid.
This was a good thing.
Another strategy Nolan employs is to make good use of your outline. The first revision should ultimately be done within the outline only.
With it, Nolan suggests the following:
- add chapter numbers
- scene numbers
- a list of plot points you are aiming to achieve
- starting/ending page numbers
- characters involved
- time frame
- number of pages in scene/chapter
- highlight turning points
The setting became rather important as well. With over 35 scenes in Greenwood Girls, variety keeps my readers interested. My first few drafts used the same settings over and over, until one brave reader asked if I could pick another place to have a particular conversation. I did, and found a spot at Greenwood Academy that no one had seen before. How fun is that!
In particular to my story, I wanted to highlight the scenes containing gymnastics sequences. It's important for me to break these scenes up and balance them throughout the book. I do this all on my computer, using the built-in highlighters to color code characters, settings and plot points.
This type of writing is so different from first draft writing. I know where the story must end, I know how my characters will feel at the end and it's just a matter of taking the reader along for the ride.
On a side note, I've been busy turning my downstairs home office into an electric guitar-jumbo computer-gaming station for the teens in my house. In doing so, I've converted a quiet, never used spot in my bedroom for my new writing retreat. It's glorious and quiet! No more Highway to Hell vibrations clashing with my need for concentration.