Sunday, 23 September 2012

Breakdown


I’ve had enough of this commitment lark. The old ball and chain is weighing me down. That nagging voice hovering in my head when I stay away too long is making my brain hurt. I just want to leave it all behind and succumb to the new stories and adventures tempting me away every time I come to a sentence I’ve read a million times already. I keep shouting 'I don't know what I ever saw in you! Why am I wasting my time here?' The spark that lit the fire for the story raged out of control for a while, but now it’s burnt itself out. A tiny ember tries to reel me back in with the promise of better behaviour. I agree to give it another go as long as we get some therapy, try a new approach.

This is therapy Admin-Queen style. A way to get to the nub of things, find out what’s important and what areas need work. But it’s not Relate I’m off to, it’s Excel. I love order and I especially love spreadsheets: All those neat headings and columns, all those cells just waiting to be moved around to places where they fit better. And of course my finger hovering over that delete button.

The therapy is a chapter by chapter breakdown with columns for Setting, Characters Present, the Purpose of the Scene and the Main Action (taken from one of Sarah Duncan’s blog posts). Sarah Duncan does this with index cards, but I don’t have any. I’ve also added a Cliff-hanger Rating column.
  
My novel of around 120,000 words, broken down into chapters as a colour-coded spreadsheet, looks like this:

It’s a good way to hone in what the purpose of a chapter is – what it boils down to in a couple of sentences. It’s also a great way to see when characters need a kick up the backside. You can see at a glance when someone is still belly-aching about the same problem three chapters along. It is especially good as a reference for checking what happens when and if it is logical.

As to whether I fall back in love with the story once the issues have been thrashed out remains to be seen. Here’s hoping.
 

6 comments:

  1. I love your spreadsheets! If only I was as organised! I'm trying to be with this book, but it refuses to play in quite the same way! Will force it to at some point. Good luck with loving yours again!

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    1. Thank you! The spreadsheets just give the illusion of being organised. It's really more a matter of trying to control the chaos...

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  2. A teacher whose name I've forgotten once said to me, 'Writing is keeping on writing,' and a teacher whose name I've not forgotten, Marti Leimbach, says that in her experience the people who make it are the ones who don't give up. Keep on keeping on! (Note to self: try taking your own advice, eh?)

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  3. It's good advice. The breakdown has definitely helped...

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  4. Sounds great advice. And looks so pretty too!

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  5. Thanks Sarah. It doesn't look very pretty any longer - it's covered in scribbles and coffee cup stains...

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