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Editing update: back to That Hospital

March 8, 2015

First, a general update: the third draft of my book is going slowly yet steadily. I’ve been through the first three chapters now, and I’m largely happy with how they’ve come out: the all-important hook is there, the characters and setting are coming alive, and the overall quality of writing edging ever-closer to where I want it to be. With the third chapter done, I have my inciting incident, and it now falls to my fourth chapter to start exploring where that incident leads.

Which brings me to That Hospital.

That Hospital is where my protagonist ends up at the start of my book’s 4th chapter, following a bad case of alien parasite infestation. It is a terrible and tortured place, where all sense of excitement and placing goes to die. It is a place where characters mill around aimlessly, without a single sense of purpose or agency. It is a place where the reader, besieged on all sides by scene-setting and exposition, loses any and all will to press on.

What I’m trying to say is that That Hospital is an utter snoozefest. It has been a snoozefest since the very beginning, despite by my best efforts  And that is all rather unfortunate, because it means that my 4th and 5th chapters basically need top-down rewrites. A lot of things are meant to happen in those two chapters – and a lot of things do happen – but it’s all so dull right now that I just can’t see readers sticking with it. Hence, the rewriting.

And the thing is, the hospital should be anything but dull. One of my protagonist’s most important allies is introduced there, for one thing, and it’s also the place where the parasite’s character truly starts to be explored (even though the character has been present from page one). For instance, it takes the parasite some time to twig that they’re the reason for this hospital visit; when the creature finally works this out, it’s terrified. It’s reaction, and others’ responses to that reaction, are supposed to form the heart of the chapter – as opposed to the reams of exposition which bog it down right now.

So, it’s safe to say that I have my work cut out for me. The first three chapters were relatively painless to redraft, but it’s looking like the fourth chapter will more than make up for that. Wish me luck; I might just need it.

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9 Comments
  1. There’s a very useful chapter on analysing what’s wrong with scenes that aren’t working in Robert McKee’s book ‘Story’. Sorry, can’t give you page number as my copy is on loan to a friend… Good luck 🙂

    • Thanks, Bobbie! Haven’t heard of that book before; I’ve now bought a copy, and I look forward to seeing what that chapter has to say 🙂

  2. Good luck x

  3. Hmmmm… Maybe have some weird things happen in the hospital? Or give the nurses a less-than-pleasant bedside manner to increase tension for the protagonist? Those could be a couple ways to make the hospital visit more interesting, so to speak. Maybe you’ve already thought of other ideas since posting this update, too.

    The best part about this is it seems like you’re looking at your story from an objective point of view right now, which is great for editing and revising. That should help you pinpoint other areas of the WIP that also need work. Keep up the good work so far! 🙂

    • Plenty of weird stuff does indeed happen; the problem I’m having it getting to that in a way that’s interesting. And in that regard, I love the idea of playing with the nurses’ and doctors’ bedside manner. My protagonist is already feeling pretty low at the start of the chapter, so a single bad encounter would really get things going. Thanks a lot for your suggestions!

  4. I’m with Sara, but I’d notch it up another ten notches. Go overboard. Do an absolutely nuts rewrite. Throw in tension, paranoia, fear, running, hiding, explosions, the lot. Then you can pair it back. That way you’ll find out the best way the characters react under that kind of pressure and you’ll be able to pick the best bits.

    The scene in my book where Morgan wakes up on the shuttle and gets told by Jones what is going…the first draft…Zzzzzzz After about 10 rewrites I’d tried it with the ship under attack, drones dogging their every step, Jones having sabotaged the ship and causing a self destruct to initiate (kind of close to the end result) and so on. In the end I had her wake up unexpectedly in confusion and fear and it slowly be revealed that Jones had done…something. Hoping to keep the reader engaged until the end of the chapter where there was a cliffhanger to keep them going. Basically hid the exposition in some other stuff. By no means am I an expert in this (and to be fair I’m still not 100% with that chapter but the end result was a lot, lot better), but it ultimately worked for me. It sounds to me like you have pretty much all the pieces you just need to wrap them up in sparkly (possibly exploding?) paper. So go nuts 😉

    • Hi Col. Thanks a lot for comments, and I’m really sorry it has taken so long for me to reply. Rewriting is underway, and I do indeed include pretty much everything besides explosions. Lots of running, lots of suspicious medical staff, the threat of painful surgical procedures, and in general a lot to make my protagonist freak out. I imagine I’ll trim it back later, just as you’ve suggested, but it’s already looking like a huge improvement over the previous draft.

      Your point about hiding the exposition is particularly important, I’d say. In fact, I reckon my problem was that the hospital scenes were originally set up solely to provide exposition – namely, to explain why my protagonist couldn’t simply get treated and be done with it all. This resulted in a lot of scenes of people standing around talking…and a lot of hypothetical readers snoozing away in their seats.

      Of course, my solution to the above pretty much invalidates my next couple of chapters, which means more rewrites. The joys of editing, eh? 🙂

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