Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Writing Road Less Traveled

Scott D. Parker

You ever make a choice that seems really weird but you give it a go just to see what happens?

So I'm writing this book here in Houston and, like I wrote last week, I was wondering if some chapters from a previous book could be used in this new one. Turns out the answer is a resounding yes. With a few tweaks, here and there, it should do nicely.

In order to have all the various chapters in one place, I dragged the older chapters into Scrivener and set them up in order that they fall in the new story. Have to say that, when I did an initial compilation, it was mighty gratifying to see the word count jump upwards by 25,000.

I had a problem, however. The old text was written in first person POV, the new stuff in third. And some of the characteristics of some of the characters were different than I now wanted them. And some of the minor details needed some nips and tucks. So I arrived at a fork in the road, one I had experienced before: continue ahead writing new chapters or halt forward progress and fix the old words now.

When I wrote my first book, I was well into Act III of my story when my two primary reviewers asked a simple question: Hey, Scott, what are the villains in your story doing while Harry Truman and his partner are galavanting around solving a mystery? I knew perfectly well what they were doing, and I spelled it out for them. They just grinned and told me to put all that in the book. I stopped writing Act III to go back and fill in the holes.

I've decided, at this precarious stage of this current book, to do the opposite. I've been making copious notes on things I know I need to fix, but leaving the fixing for later. I want to get to "The End" first but making major changes. Then, with the entire book complete, I can tweak what needs tweaking. Moreover, if there are things that I think need changing now, perhaps it'll be in line with the story later. It's a scary decision, but I'm actually looking forward to seeing how it turns out.

For all of y'all who face(d) a similar crossroads, what was your choice?

Event of the Week: Noir Night 2011 at Houston's Murder by the Book. I got to meet Megan Abbott, Sara Gran, and see Duane Swierczynski again. Had a great time. Look for a write-up soon.


Unknown said...

Good question. A wee spot of retrospective plotting can often be required. Depends how the momentum is. If I'm fired up I've got to keep moving forward, but if what I know needs to be seeded in earlier keeps bugging me, I have to stop, go back and see to it.

So, in answer to your question - it depends. How's that for sitting in that there fence?

angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

Thanks for revealing your process and questions. I've been writing the same story for 20 years and have started from scratch several times. Your idea of how it may be "in line with the story later" ticks for me. I look forward to hearing more.

Dana King said...

Your story is among the reasons I continue to outline. For me, it's a lot easier to make those additions when everything is still on index cards than it is to start rewriting large chunks of story that may threaten to stop my momentum.

In the story I recently completed, I did miss a few necessary scenes in the outline. I outlined them, then went back after the draft in progress had been completed, to maintain the flow of what I was working on at the time.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Whenever I have tried to insert old material, it hasn't worked. It just feels different in tone, style, something. Glad it worked for you.

Joelle Charbonneau said...

I've never been able to really work old material into something. Congrats! I'm totally jealous. And YAY for moving closer and closer toward THE END. I can't wait to cheer that goal with you.