Sunday, December 4, 2011

SPREADSHEETS!

Spent the morning cleaning and trying to figure out what to do with several large items which all need to be in the same place, including one treadmill and one Christmas tree. Have given up for the moment and retreated with tea to my underground lair*.

I'm graphing this afternoon, building a spreadsheet to break down my chapter lengths, plot escalation and character involvement in the story. I know I have a deficiency, but I want to see exactly how big it is. And, while I write with an eye toward balancing active scenes (whether they are fights/chases, a lot of movement, or intimate) with periods of reflection and/or exposition, some scenes come out scrawny and others bloated. Lines and dots and numbers help me to analyze what I can't see when I'm in the middle of all the words.

If anyone's interested, I'll try to figure out how to import graphs to show you how my WIP - currently titled Messenger II - looks.



*Also known as the first-floor spare bedroom I have claimed in the name of Spain**.

**And, by "Spain", I mean for my writing office.

4 comments:

  1. Gracious. This is like you designing jets for Boeing vs. me making a paper airplane and just hoping the darn thing flies. Color me impressed.

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  2. About the first paragraph - do you have a garage? Or do you actually use the tread mill? ;)

    I'd be very interested in seeing your graphs. Do you have a resource guiding you on how to put a number on plot escalation and character involvement?

    It strikes me that this would have been a useful exercise for me on The Binding, but there's no turning back now. (I told my family to shoot me like a rabid dog if I talk about revising again. They told me they'd already bought the shotgun.)

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  3. I'd love graphs! and more information on this method/madness...

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  4. I don't know about that, Claire. :)

    I actually use the treadmill, Marie. Trying to find a place where it will be out of the way but usable.

    I've seen examples of these graphs, much more in depth than mine, but I can't remember where now. I only do them after I've completed a draft since I find that, the tighter I outline, the more frustrated I become with trying to write the story. Mine are simple. Columns for chapter, and rows for the main characters including villains even if they are rarely on the page. For instance, if I've written a mystery and the bad guy does something but we don't see it, I still note he's been active when the detective (or whatever) discovers the crime scene.

    Drop an "x" in each column in which the character appears, and then review to see if any of the major players are absent for too long. Or, alternatively, if I've gone through the trouble of introducing someone and they only show up in three or four chapters, maybe they can be cut or consolidated with another character.

    Either on another graph or below that rows of characters, I list types of events, such as: action, reflection, exposition, discovery, confrontation, sex, use of magic...it depends on what type of story you're writing. I like some balance. I like action, but not non-stop. I think readers need to rest just like characters should need to (provided they are human or human-like), and periods of rest allow for deeper insight into characters, or for relationships to build. Again, whatever you need in the story.

    If I see multiple chapters heavy on exposition, I know I need to trim. If I have five chapters of action followed by four of rest, I know I've got a lull.

    I'm sure there are various rules out there for balance and escalation. I do this simple graphing to look for glaring deficiencies or imbalance, not to follow a single school of thought on how a story must be written. For novels and large casts, I find this exceedingly valuable.

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