Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Process Examination #8: Maintaining the Narrative Thread

I'm in the process of completing a very tight-focused revision of the 17K words I've written in THUMB. The only purpose of this rewrite is to add in new narrative dots and delete some old ones so I can connect them in a slightly adjusted narrative thread.

I've discovered that I am not the sort of writer who can say, "Hey, if I change/add/delete this plot point way back in Chapter 2, the story will look like X here in Chapter 8 where I'm at now," and just keep going ahead with draft. If I try to do that, I get lost in the many ways from Point A to Point B in each chapter and end up building an entirely different narrative thread than before I came up with the new plot points but that doesn't follow from the new plot points, either. It's one of the ways I got to 82K in SoZ without leaving Act One.

It's not easy to force my way through a "only look at this one aspect" revision. There's a part of me that wants to burrow down into the nitty-gritty of every sentence and Fix the Whole Damn Thing. But that would take way too much time, and I'm not willing to invest energy in that sort of revision when it's likely I'll be making more substantive narrative thread changes as I work my way through the rest of this draft. But it's hard to catch a bit of dialog or description and wince a bit, knowing it could be better, but just zip right past it because it's out of scope for the revision.

So I've decided to dangle a carrot for this task. Via Sarah Monette, I have discovered the Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab. They specialize in perfumes that represent poems and literary characters and the like. I'm not really excited about it for dousing myself in scent (though I have no objection to that, should I enjoy the scents I purchase), but Muse is practically pinging with the possibilities. Scrolling through their scent descriptions, looking for character matches, getting olfactory input for the novels. And I'm completely caught up in Muse's excitement.

In one of my backstory scenes, I have a character spritzing herself with perfume. It's more than just a "hey, it smells good" thing. To her, it's like armor and a weapon. It hides her even as it empowers her. She knows this and revels in it. But I had no idea how to describe that kind of a scent. Now, after wandering through the BPAL website, I've got a couple of ideas based on their allegorical connections.

So, as soon as I finish this limited rewrite (which I'm thinking I can get done by the weekend), I'll be rewarding myself with a purchase at BPAL. And then it will be back to the draft, armed with the super sniffer and an intact narrative thread. Nothing's gonna stop me then.

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