Tuesday, February 23, 2010

WIP: Under Construction

When I decided to write five new chapters for an already finished manuscript, I knew it would be a daunting task. Especially if those chapters are in a different POV from the majority of the book. After the initial thought had formed and had time to simmer, a little voice, the voice of doubt, stepped in and had something to say. I had not written one word of the new chapters, and I was getting, “It’s too hard; it won’t work; you’re wasting your time.”
I kindly told the voice to hush. With a won’t-know-til-you-try attitude, I stared at the familiar flashing cursor. A week later, I finished the rough draft of all five chapters. And I’m very glad that I did.
The chapters, like any first draft, need a great deal of work, but before I start polishing, I will be going through several steps to prepare these chapters so they can slide into the book. Think about it. If you decide to build onto your house, you can’t just slap some wood up and start painting. There is cutting, sanding, and other prep work needed before you can add this new room. The last thing would be the paint. For example, the first chapter slides in between existing chapters four and five. I need to work on passage of time, trying to keep things linear, the transition to each scene, and avoid duplication of ideas.
I’ve worked out an approach to help take each step at a time, because I find that breaking it into bite size chunks is much easier to swallow.
1) Before and after transition checks – I want to make sure sliding in and out of the second POV is not jarring, but is significant enough that the reader realizes immediately that the shift has happened. Stephanie Meyer did this in New Moon, and the first time I missed it, and was part way through the passage before realizing, Oh, we’re Jacob now. By Eclipse, I was right there with her. Even if you are remaining in the same POV, you must make sure that the transition is still smooth. This will lead to revising not just the new chapters, but the old.
2) Consistency and duplication checks – When adding brand new chapters, some things in previous chapters may change. You have to go through and make sure that you are not contradicting yourself. In line with this, you must also make sure that you are not duplicating ideas. When covering a story from multiple POV’s, you don’t want to tell the exact same story through both of their eyes, otherwise the POV switch would not be necessary. The second POV needs to bring something new to the table. For me, Adam Bristow sees the dark side of the story. He is down in the nitty gritty. While Felicity is clueless that the dark side even exists.
3) First Coat – Begin the polishing process. Cleaning up the echos, making sure action tags are there. Make the new chapters as strong as possible.
4) Voice consistency check – Now that the entire book is fairly shiny, I can go back and divide the book into the different POVs.  I plan to go through each POV separately, making sure that the voice of the character remains true and distinct.  This is especially true for Bristow. He is British, uses slang, and is male. I have to make sure that all of his chapters read with the exact same voice, and that they are unique, making them stand out from Felicity’s chapters.
5) Final Coat – Read the entire book, and revise once more. For me, revisions are normally a three part process: read and edit, revise, final read through. I always read through it after a round of edits because when making edits, I often leave a dangling period or something bizarre that does not belong.
6) Let it dry – Put the manuscript a way for at least one month, and go find something else to do. Draw the blueprints for the next novel. During this time, I often hand the ms over to critiquers. This go round, I will be searching for another reader, one who has not read it. More on this later. I’m thinking about doing a fair trade, so keep me in mind if you are looking for a critique.
Ok, I’ve run long. I’m hearing the Oscar wrap up song.
I’d love to hear any advice you have for adding to a finished ms. How many POV’s are in your current WIP. Have I lost my mind? (The last question was mainly for me.) I’m thinking about writing on some of the consistency checks that I’ve used in the past. Is this something useful to you?


  1. Great advice. I haven't added to a finished manuscript but if the current publisher that has my full rejects my manuscript, I will have to add about 10k words to the book to make it viable for other publishers, so I may be facing that task in the future(hopefully not.) :)

    Currently, I have two POVs in my story, but that's pretty typical for romance. Good luck with your changes.

  2. I like the idea of doing all the pov chapters of a character at a time for voice consistancy. I'll have to keep that in mind if I ever plan a novel enough ahead of time to do that. Much easier to use that method when adding to an already existing novel, I'm thinking. :)

    Consistancy is the big one when adding and giving the novel time to get a little hazy in your head first so when you edit, your not second guessing if you put that info in chapter two, or if that got deleted, or if that got switched to the new pov in chapter three. It can make a person crazy.

    I'm currently in a single pov novel, but I've done five, and once, many more. (No, you haven't lost your mind. ;) )

  3. Ah, yes the consistency check. I'm still revising and have had to keep a long running list of details and plot points that need to appear in re-write from chapters I cut. Good reminder to keep the list prominent!

    In a completely unrelated matter... When you get a moment, could you pop by my blog and let me know where you heard about the Whoops! Blogfest? I'd promised a prize to my best shout-out helper, but I can't figure out who to thank. Gracias!

  4. You might find this article useful.

    'Adding 10,000 Words Without Panicking'


  5. I have no advice to give... you already did what I would've suggested. Try it. Sounds like you are happy with the result, and that means that you know how to make it work.

    Best of luck!

  6. Roni - I've got my fingers crossed for you. Best of luck with the full. You book sounds so interesting; I am ready to buy it. :)

    Jean-I also do that for dialogue consistency checks. For example, making sure if they say 'em instead of them - that I remain consistent all the way through the book. It's been very helpful for me.

    Laurel- I also break down the book into sets of 3 chapters. It makes working through it, and finding info so much easier. Also, storyboarding has been a lifesaver for me. A quick glance and I know exactly where something is in the book.

    I'll swing by and fill out the survey, and also become a follower :) See me, I'm right behind you.

    Janine-Thanks for the article. I appreciate it.

    JM- Thanks. Sounds like you and I have very similar editing styles. And yes, I am really liking what these chapters are doing for the book. I'm super excited.

  7. How fun; to switch POV's. My trilogy is in third limited. I think I write best in that POV. I can do first for flash or short stories.

    I think its great you have a plan of attack for the writing/revising phases. Good advice not to get hung up on editing while writing the first draft. Many writers obsess so much about the draft they forget to move on. Then get frustrated at the lack of progress.

    Thanks for the tips. I think I'll favorite them so I don't forget a step in the process. I get a little anxious sometimes, what can I say.


  8. Donna-
    I'm the opposite on the POV. I can do first person in novel length, but short stories I tend to stick with third limited. My attempt at a full in 3 LTD seemed to just fall flat on the page. I'll try again in the future. But I like first person. A majority of what I read is in first. Ah, and we write what we read. :-)

  9. I really like this notion of checking each POV separately - what a completely logical thing to do. How many are in my current WiP? Are you sitting down? Six.

    Thanks so much, by the way, for choosing to follow my blog!