Debut Novel: Spreadsheets Used for Plotting and Revising a Novel
Introduced first in 2007, debut children’s authors have formed a cooperative effort to market their books. I featured Revision Stories from the Classes of 2k8 and 2k9 and this feature returns this year with the Class of 2k11.
Trinity Faegen, THE MEPHISTO COVENANT, YA, Fall 2011
Revisions: Literary Fast Forward
Guest post by Trinity Faegen
Ironically, I’m writing this just after receiving the editorial letter and line edits on my first YA novel. The editor has an issue with my timeline and asked me to extend it.
How long is your story from beginning to end? A day? A week? A year? Mine is about a week, and he feels this is too short, that I need to extend it to ten days or even two weeks, but how can I lengthen the timeline without adding extraneous scenes that read like filler?
The answer is the literary equivalent of fast forward.
First, I’ll find one or more areas within the manuscript that are already transitional, such as the end of a scene that draws a subplot to conclusion, or one that ends a dramatic confrontation. I’m fortunate because one of my plot elements involves a character’s need for information, which can’t be had quickly. I will find a scene ending that lends itself to a lapse of dramatic action until things begin to happen again. I’ll add a few paragraphs to the beginning of the next scene, in the appropriate point of view, to let the reader know time has passed, but nothing happened off-screen. The characters ate, slept, went to school, lived their lives, until now, when we are picking up the pace again.
The paragraphs might read something like this:
“After her miserable first day at Telluride High, Sasha didn’t think it could get worse. She was wrong. As the lie Brett told about her spread, it morphed into something even he, in his twisted, pervy little mind, couldn’t have dreamed up. Not only did everyone believe she had sex on the Internet, they now thought she did it for money. She was like a leper, always alone, everyone avoiding her as if she was contagious.
By Friday, her fifth day in Hell, she’d had enough. Somehow, she had to turn the tables on Brett, and since she had not one single friend to help, she’d have to do it alone.
First period began like always, Mrs. Redmon calling on another victim to read from The Metamorphosis. Sasha could feel Brett’s eyes staring at her, knew he was smirking, smug and pleased with himself. She waited until….”
You get the idea. I’ve skipped ahead four days, in two paragraphs, segueing into this comeuppance scene where new drama will unfold. Sasha’s home life is also horrible, but I established this earlier in the story, so no need to cover it again. Even though I don’t mention it, the reader can intuit that her nights were as dreary as her days during the time we just skipped over.
When revising, literary fast forward isn’t difficult, but it’s important not to fall into the trap of telling, not showing. A little bit of exposition goes a long way. Just make sure all you’ve skipped showing is the passage of time.
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