I’m taking a look at my NaNoWriMo 2011 novel Pendant of Nefertiti and seeing if there is anything I can salvage into a marketable product. Instead, I am finding hoards of poorly developed ideas and missing scenes. When preparing to write this novel my pre-planning consisted of naming my main character. I had only a vague idea about what I was going to do with her. While writing my first MS, Stonebearer’s Betrayal, I learned that I don’t tend to stick with my original ideas anyway and any attempt at detailed outlining is a waste of time.
Now both stories are complete they need further developing. yWriter, the software I use to organize my novel-writing, does have the idea of scene cards built into the program, but I find it awkward to try to visualize the progress of a story when I have to flip between different windows on my screen.
This is when it’s time to break out the index cards. Each card represents one scene and answers the questions who, where, what, and why. Who is in the scene? Where does it take place? What is happening? Why is it important to the story?
When all the cards are finished, and my kids aren’t around, I will lay them out on my big kitchen table and separate out different story lines and identify different concepts and ideas. Then it should be easier to see awkward gaps in the story and create a new scene card to fill them in. It will also be an immense help to sort out the time line. Using the cards I can play around key event sequences and reorder them until each event flows smoothly to the next.
But wait, there’s more! Scene cards are also a great way to track small details. Say there is a locket that has huge significance in the climax of the story. That locket should be introduced earlier in the story and mentioned a few times before the end. If it hasn’t, notes can be added to existing scenes where it would fit or a new scene can be created.
In Stonebearer’s Betrayal I use two characters in the first half of the book and then never mention them again. They are a huge loose end that needs to be addressed. With all the scenes laid out in front of me I can find a way to weave them in to the last part of the book as well by adding them to existing scenes and creating a few new ones.
When the cards are finished, NUMBER THEM. I can’t imagine anything worse than spending hours finding the perfect order only to drop the stack and have to do it again. Using the complete set of scene cards, it’s a matter of going through each card reordering sections, writing new scenes, and correcting already existing ones.
Now where are my index cards? It’s time to get started!