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A Return to Writing

June 14, 2014

This past week, I’ve been getting back into a steady writing schedule. Honestly, I’m glad to be saying this: the last several weeks have been exceedingly hectic, with very little time spent on any kind of writing besides the academic variety. That is not to say the last few weeks have been bad, mind; just last week, I passed my formal assessment, which means I still have a job for at least another year. Now all I need to do is keep it up for another two and a half years, and I might just graduate ;).

Anyway, the novel.

Much of my work this week has concerned two particular chapters which occur fairly early on. Both have huge implications on the relationship between my protagonist and a certain other major character, meaning that I pretty muchย have to get these right before writing/editing any future interactions between them, of which there are many. Said chapters were also products of the planning I did in between the first and second drafts, leaving a lot of material still to write.

The problem? I had gone nearly a month without regular fiction writing, which left me decidedly rusty. Iย knew where the chapters took place and I knew the gist of what I wanted to say, but I just couldn’t work out how to say it.

In the end, I came up with a bit of an odd solution: for each chapter, I wrote a script.

Perhaps I should explain some more. Both chapters are very dialogue-heavy, with both characters learning a number of truths about the other. The dialogue, then, would make or break both sequences. With this in mind, I completely ignored descriptions in favour of simply getting the characters’ conversation onto the page.ย  I simply let the characters talk, including “stage directions” where needed, and tried to get into both of their heads as much as possible.

Once that was done, I began to write the chapters for real.

As of writing, I’m around half way through expanding the second of the two chapters. Honestly, I think this one will need a lot more work even after I’ve expanded it: the crux of it is the protagonist’s choice between the easy course of action and the right one, and she still doesn’t seem anywhere near as conflicted as I know I would be. Of course, this isn’t to say that the rest of the novel doesn’t still need a whole lot of work; I just think that this chapter in particular will take a while to get truly “right”.

This scripting technique, by the way, is something I intend to keep doing in the future. It proved a good way to stop a block in its tracks, and I’d definitely recommend trying it sometime if you haven’t done before.

So all in all, I’d say things are going well. I’m happy with how this week has gone as far as writing goes, and have every reason to believe that next week will be even better. Who knows? Maybe I’ll even get back to posting regularly on this blog you see here. Wouldn’t THAT be something special? ๐Ÿ˜‰

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13 Comments
  1. Sounds great, Nick ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ve often written first drafts of key scenes this way – just getting the dialogue (and silences and subtext) and main action down, because it’s the characters who drive the story with what they say and do, action and reaction, cause and effect, their emotional through lines. With tricky scenes, I’ve found it helps to keep them pared down until the skeleton story line is working. And when I’m editing a fleshed out scene, I often read only the dialogue to check for that.

    • Glad I’m not alone in doing this :D. And yeah: this will definitely be my go-to method for troublesome scenes from now on. A ton of the scenes in my first draft bogged down when I wrote them, and I reckon writing a skeleton would have helped a lot.

  2. Ooh, awesome! Editing is hardโ€ฆbut that scripting idea is kind of ingenious. I never would have thought of something like that.

    Anyway, good luck!

  3. I like the sound of that scripting idea. ^^ I sometimes do something similar during my own planning stages, if pieces of dialogue should happen to jump out at me, but perhaps it might be worth trying to take it farther. Seems like it could potentially be a real time-saver, for me, putting All My Focus, Part 1 into just letting the characters talk, and then All My Focus, Part 2 into filling in the scene around them, instead of trying to wrangle both at once.

    • Glad to hear :D. I’m definitely planning to use this more often from now on. Kinda wish I’d done it from the outset, really; I imagine I’d have gotten through the first draft a lot quicker.

  4. Funny you mention “scriptwriting” to work out dialogue. I’ve done that a couple of times with my WIP, including the most recent chapter I started writing. And I agree that it helps you get into the characters’ heads much better, and to focus on the dialogue without getting caught up in the “showing” or external / sense-related bits. Glad to hear it’s working out for you so far!

    Also, I could’ve sworn your protagonist was originally male…? That was the gist I’d gotten from your past blog articles. Although I could very well be wrong… But if you did switch from male to female, why? Just curious.

    • Thanks! It was a huge help, and it’s definitely something I’ll do more in the future. I’ve a lot of early chapters I want to majorly re-jig in the next fortnight, and I reckon this scripting method ought to speed up the process considerably.

      And nah, the protagonist of this piece was always female :). I think I mentioned a male protagonist over on your blog a while back, but he was for another (since abandoned) project.

      • So your protagonist was always a female? Hmmm. I wonder how I missed that. But yeah, I think that blog comment you mentioned was probably where I’d gotten the idea that yours was male. Good luck as you continue to revise!

        Pssst, you have two Chronicles to catch up on, btw. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      • Actually, I’ve just the one to catch up on ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ve been meaning to comment on your 55k post for a while, since one of my few writing sessions of the past month ended up revolving around said posts’ closing questions.

        Will read the new chonicle later today ๐Ÿ˜‰

  5. Welcome back sir! Great tip. Because I dip in and out of writing (about an hour per day is all I can spare) it takes a while to get into character, especially with alternating protagonist chapters. It’s a really useful idea to just focus on what they are saying (with the odd stage direction as you say). Leave the rest for adding in at a later time. I’ll definitely be trying this.

    I’ve also found that a couple of chapters often seem to need disproportionate attention. So far I’ve found leaving them and coming back once I have other aspects firmed up really helps, otherwise I get too frustrated with my inability to say it well. Found letting a trusted (and honest) friend see it often helps at that stage too.

    Glad you’re back in the saddle.

    • Thanks! I actually had a bit of a writing slump again last week (was at a conference – fun stuff :D), but this week is looking to be a lot better. And yeah, I agree that getting into character takes ages; I have enough trouble dealing with just one protagonist, so I dread to think what dealing with two must be like.

      Incidentally, I sent off one of my early chapters to a friend not so long ago. Really looking forward to seeing what he says, since his comments have been very helpful in the past. In particular, I’m keen to see if he brings up the naming issue I mentioned on your blog; if he does, then he’ll the second person to do so (meaning that something is definitely wrong).

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