As I mentioned last week, though I haven’t been blogging and haven’t been writing as much as I want to, I have managed to edit a few chapters of Oil and Boiling Water. I sent that novel out on query a couple of years ago and got some feedback from agents, several of which didn’t send a form rejection. The novel ended up on standby while I worked my way through my burnout from my old job and then flew my way to Germany.
Because I truly believe in this story, I figured that I could ease my way back into writing by doing a new pass of edits on the whole thing. It helps that the story sat for a while. Before I set out on my edits, I made a list of my goals. At first, I focused on the feedback I had received: simplify the voice, clarify the opening, age it up (some people thought it was YA and that’s not the story I want to tell).
I read and tweaked, pulling details together into more visible elements, straining relationship a bit more, and cutting down some of the overly lighthearted moments. These tweaks, though rather minor in the grand scheme of things, messed up the progression of the relationships between my characters a little bit. I decided to dig into this a bit more and track the ups and downs of relationships in an Excel table.
Why stop there?
The table grew quickly to help me satisfy additional objectives I added to this pass of edits: check the rhythm of action and drama, make sure the key elements of the story show up regularly in chapters, validate that the longer chapters deserve to be this long, etc.
This is what it looks like now for chapter 1 to 10.
The colored chapters numbers flag the length. Elements that evolve in the story get a variety of numerical values, while tertiary characters/key plot points get nothing if they are not mentioned in a chapter, a 5 if they are briefly and a 10 if they play a significant role in that chapter. I should probably at least mention the Scholars (my main antagonists) in chapter 5 or 6 because they currently disappear for seven chapters after their first apparition.
Then, that table turned into a series of graphs.
Chapters 12, 21 and 24 are clearly a problem; no drama or action. And to top it off, 12 and 24 are some of my longest chapters. My midpoint does what it should: high action, short breather, high action. There should be high drama close after that and that’s not happening.
These tools have allowed me to paint a clearer picture of what my edits need to accomplish and I’m confident I can fix these issues with rather small changes. The elements of potential drama and action (for example) are in there, but they don’t shine so I’ll point a follow spot on them. 😉
What do you think? How do you plan your edits?