The Best Way to Tell a Story


Finding the Best Way to Tell a Story

First drafts are for finding out what story you are telling. Second and subsequent drafts are for finding the best way to tell that story.

I finished a second draft yesterday and someone asked what I concentrated on in that draft. Basically, refining the story and exploring options for telling it.

Specificially, I worked on these things:
Facts: I had several experts in child behavior read the mss and saw that there were several checks on the reality of my situations. I’m dealing with kids in foster care, so I had to look up state laws, read manuals for foster parents, etc. Then, replot with that in mind.

Plot: There were major plot holes that needed to be addressed. The climax of a major subplot had to be totally overhauled because of the factual corrections. Smaller plot holes had to be filled.

Transitions: Often there were abrupt changes from scene to scene, without enough details for the reader to follow when/where/what.

Character: Motivations were unclear. I added more internal thoughts, backstory, and discussion of events. It’s a delicate balance to keep the story moving, yet make it clear. This draft, I concentrated on making it clear. If my readers want me to be more delicate on the next draft, I can do that.

Villain: The villain was too cut and dried and needed some softening.

Voice: OK, I’m doing that hard thing of alternating voices. So, I had to make each voice distinctive and stay consistent within each voice. I’m sure there’s more to do here with consistency, but this is a good start.

Setting: There’s still some work to do on portraying this specific school and community, but it’s pretty good now.

Clarity: Above all, I tried to get the story out of my head and onto paper with more exactness and completeness.

So, the first draft blocked in the major elements, this draft refined them. I’ll need at least one more draft to refine and to add highlights.

Plan for Third Draft

Specifically, I want to work on consistent voice, refining the language, clearing up any remaining plot problems, keeping a balance of action and internal motivations, making sure Darcy-the-author stays out of the story and the kids are really kids, cutting about 10,000 words (It’s about 60,000 right now and I think 50,000 would be better), and keeping the pace taut.

I already want to start on the consistency of the voice, but I think I’ll try to wait a couple days, so I have fresher eyes. But I won’t let a lot of time pass, or I’ll lose momentum, especially with the holidays.

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