It’s taken me two full days of work to get through step two of Mary Burton’s process of working with manuscript drafts. At first, I found it tedious and thought I’d never be able to get through it.
As a reminder, part two is:
The Second Draft/A Sound Structure: Start smoothing the story’s structure. Make sure the scenes flow and are in order. Don’t bother with real word crafting at this stage. Start a running list of characters, time stamp each scene and record number of pages per chapter.
Working on this hurt my brain in much the same way writing a synopsis does. It was unpleasant, but about half way through, I started to see the merits of it. Making the lists forced me to really back away from this creative chunk of work and look at it with a different eye.
Here’s what I found that needs to be worked out before I go on to the next step:
1. Issues with the time. No surprise there. But it’s good to take care of this now.
2. Uneven chapters. Nobody has ever said your chapters need to be even. But I like to have them about the same length if possible. Sometimes it’s not. But for me this was particularly helpful because I am short in terms of word count. So I’m going to look at those small chapters first. It seems the thing to do.
3. Unanswered questions. My first draft or “sloppy copy” as Mary calls it was very sloppy. As I write, if I don’t know the answer to something that comes up, I mark it with question marks. I found more of those than what I remembered. I made a list of those questions as well as marked them in red on the manuscript. Having a list of them seems to trick my brain into thinking this will be more manageable.
4. The last chapter isn’t really the last chapter. I see that now. Or is it that another chapter should be inserted before it? I like the idea of ending the book with this particular image. But it’s not working. It feels abrupt. So it needs reworking.
So, next week I’ll be making phone calls and shoring up some of the loose ends of the research. And I’ll be taking a look at those short chapters and writing more.
After I’m finished with fleshing the story out, I will go on to the next step in Mary’s list—even if some of my questions aren’t answered. The questions are really just about details and won’t affect the major plot points.
This part in the process could take a week or two—particularly because it’s summer and my daughters are home. Also, I’m working on a few other projects, as well. I plan to work on HYBRID at least half of my day, when I have a day to work.
Here’s the next step in Mary’s system:
Third Draft/Fine-Tuning: Focus not only what is said, but also how it is said. Identify and clearly define story themes and character motivations. Does each scene and chapter end with a page-turner?
I look forward to this step. It looks less tedious to me than the one I’ve just done. But, of course, I won’t know until I get there.