Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Book Doctor's Little Black Bag: English and French Scenes and Beats: learning to s...

English and French Scenes and Beats: learning to see your story's mechanical and innate rhythms


Editor or agent says your story is good but "wanders"

Abundant notes scrawled in the margin saying "why is this here?"Cut way back" or "Move somewhere else." You can see the point of the notes but haven't a clue how to comply without screwing things up.

You've been very careful about viewpoint and you know you wrote it all in limited viewpoint, either single viewpoint throughout or one viewpoint at a time, but several editors—especially the more careless ones who don't seem to be able to remember character names or events—are telling you that you need to learn to write in viewpoint.

You notice yourself that you seem to be spending too much time on setups and you've had to repeat some of them multiple times (a cab ride across town that happens because your hero needs to meet with two people who live far apart, an EVA to replace the Astrocrevulator for the fourth time, Nellie walking her dog hoping to meet Allen, Allen crouching in the parking lot trying to get up the nerve to rescue that poor abused dog from Nellie), and you're sure many of them are unnecessary.

Editor or agent (or sometimes critique group if they're astute) is complaining that everything in the story always goes on a little too long and seems to just trail off.


The heart of what I did as a book doctor was to repair some mixture and connection of the plot (the innate rhythm) and the presentation (the mechanical rhythm). The key to that was being able to see them clearly, and because of my theatrical training, mostly I learned to see the innate and mechanical rhythms by using the analytic tools I acquired as a stage director. This is a long piece and I'm not entirely sure I've been clear enough, or can be, but if you can learn to do this, you'll be amazed at how far and fast you can move your work.