Wednesday, November 5, 2014


I've been looking at a manuscript I wrote as the first part of a series several years ago. I really like this story. The quality doesn't fall into the, oh my god, how awful category—those stories are long ago in a galaxy far away, um, that would be in a hidden box. It’s full of old manuscripts written through the years and won’t see the light of day anytime soon. 

I digress. This story has good bones but could be told in a better way. I knew that four years ago, when started editing it. There are two editions both a bit different than the other the original and #2 is from my first pass of edits. It still wasn't quite right. Editing is not my favorite part of writing.

To make it what it needs to be will take some pretty ruthless work. The third file of this story has pieces spread out everywhere. It's kind of like having all the pieces of the fabric for a quilt but no pattern handy to reassemble it so it looks like a quilt and not a stack of bright colors. It's daunting. There are pieces mixed in that aren't necessary in creating the quilt.  

In writing I need to know many things that my reader doesn't. To complicate things more the story starts in the wrong place—cut about 5 chapters and you have the true beginning. I also know the plot needs tweaking. I have the main story and a couple of sub-plots. I need a clearer picture of where I want this story to go. Need to get rid of those things that don't move the story forward and add other scenes that will.

When I look at the mess of pieces it overwhelms me. Where the hell do I start?

I've been thinking about that a lot lately. Just as with creating a quilt (which I've done) or any art form  you first have to have a pattern. The base pattern has to be a clear picture in your mind. The shape and scope of it. That clarity determines what sort of accents and in what material and textures are needed to compliment the pattern. Make it pop.

So, I have my answer. I need to start with the pattern (plot). Get a clearer picture of it in my mind and then set out the pieces (chapters and scenes) that fit the pattern and baste them together. I need to decide, once that's done, what will add better texture to the story. Adding more layers of emotion and motivations. Add the contrasts of environment and description to match the picture in my head.

Easy-peasy right? Pfft. Not hardly.

It’s still in pieces and I don’t kid myself about the time involved to take this story from okay to great. Even after I have the pattern clear and the pieces and accents where I want them I know there will be several more editing passes after the beta reads.

But that’s for the future. Right now my focus is on getting the pattern straight. I’ll worry about the rest later.

Bear with me folks, I had a severe allergic reaction Monday evening and I'm still weak and wimpy. I will get around to visit but it will be in ;-) bits and pieces. 


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Oh crumbs, Sia - I hope the allergic reaction eases, or has eased and will rapidly improve.

Love the way you've told the story of editing and writing .. great descriptions with clever images ...

Cheers and take care - Hilary

Anonymous said...

Hope you are feeling better, must be awful for you.
Enjoyed your post and the way you wrote about writing etc.
Take care.

Jo said...

Sorry about the allergic reaction. Not funny. Hope you will be totally recovered soon.

You know, when they made quilts originally in the old days in the UK they didn't have patterns, they just sewed all the bits together until they had a quilt. More concerned with making a cover than a work of art.

Kat Sheridan said...

Oh, ugh, hope you're feeling better soon, Sia! My grandmother used to make what we called crazy quilts--no patterns but a jumble of whatever she had. They kept us warm just as well as the prettier ones. Don't be too hard on yourself. You know this story. Just pick a piece and begin. The pattern will show itself to you.

shelly said...

Yup! I know you're right!

Karen Walker said...

One little step at a time, Sia. Of course looking at the whole picture is overwhelming. Hope you feel better soon.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Sorry about your allergic reaction.
Get your pattern set and then you'll know what to do, whether it's piecing things together or a complete re-write.

Dianne K. Salerni said...

I'm going through a similar process, looking at an old but beloved manuscript and trying to figure out how to salvage all the vibrant scraps of it and rearrange the whole thing in a more pleasing pattern.

Optimistic Existentialist said...

Sia, my friend, I hope you feel better soon!

Empty Nest Insider said...

I like your analogy of weaving a story together like a pattern. Hopefully, it will all fit seamlessly together in no time. I also hope you're feeling better, Sia!


Toinette Thomas said...

Sorry to hear of your allergy issues, but I can relate. I suffer year round.
I like your idea of creating patterns with your writing. I may try this approach at some point.
Thanks for sharing.