I made another discovery last year, while drafting The Ashes of Home: The power of writing in threads and scenes.
I blogged in more detail about this last year, but the essence is that my entire manuscript at this point is a long series of scenes with only a few tentative chapter breaks marked in as yet. Alongside, I have a summary spreadsheet listing the scenes, a brief description of what the scene is about, and the scene’s point of view. The latter is color coded so the whole list provides a great visual for how much attention each of the main characters is getting throughout the story.
I found this approach really helpful in keeping up momentum along the different parallel threads of the story during the drafting phase. I could just get on with writing each point of view as its own story and worry about weaving them together later.
Now I’m into final edits, the power of this technique is showing itself again. There is one particular story line that I want to draw more to the fore. There was a whole hive of activity linking two of the main characters that I never articulated in the first draft, mainly because I wasn’t even aware of it. When I thought about it, it was obviously present but happening entirely off stage. I decided to bring it explicitly on stage, which means writing a series of new scenes, or additions to existing scenes, and weaving them back into the storyline.
If I’d worked directly on the manuscript, agonizing over where to edit in new material at the same time as trying to draft it, I think I’d have been paralyzed by the complexity of the task. Instead, I focused simply on the thread I wanted to weave in as if it were a complete story in itself. I jotted down notes about how that storyline would evolve and ideas about point of view and timeline.
The novel’s scene list helped here, giving me an overview of the story structure and making it easier to see where this new thread would fit naturally into the overall structure. Then I simply wrote the new scenes as if they were a standalone story.
I’m now in the process of editing the new material into the whole, and I have to report I’m very pleased with the effectiveness of this technique.