I am in the process of making revisions on Valley of Sorrows, the third book in the Tower of Bones trilogy. I’ve had trouble with this manuscript, not because I fell out of love with it, but because so many great characters have emerged that I lost the thread of the story.
Because I knew I had lost my way, I sent it to a friend, Dave Cantrell, who has done a structural edit and given me the pointers I need to get this back on track.
What happened to derail VOS is this: I lost track of the original story arc.
This is not an uncommon problem–writers tell me all the time how new and intriguing characters pop up and take their tale in a different direction.
Sometime this works out well. Other times, not so much. I have floundered for two years on this novel.
What Dave did at my request was far more intensive than a beta-read. He really went deep, looking at it from the standpoint of a reader and an editor, and asking himself what worked, what didn’t, and analyzing why.
So right now I am taking each chapter on an individual basis and looking at Dave’s comments. Every comment is designed to let me know why a particular plot point did or didn’t work, and where it became confusing. He was able to see where I lost the overall story arc and his comments give me a road-map to guide my efforts in building tension and ending this series with a strong finish.
I’ve said before that making revisions is not editing. Revising the first draft is a necessary part of the process that will get you to the editing stage.
Most authors understand that there is an arc to the overall novel–the Story Arc which consists of :
- Exposition, where we introduce our characters and their situation.
- Rising Action, where we introduce complications for the protagonist
- Climax, the high point of the action, the turning point of the narrative
- Falling Action, the regrouping and unfolding of events that will lead to the conclusion
- Resolution, in which the problems encountered by the protagonist are resolved, providing closure for the reader.
As I said, most of us understand this arc, but we can easily lose track of it when we are in the throes of writing our first draft.
At the 2014 PNWA Conference, in his seminar on the arc of the scene, author Scott Driscoll explained how the main difference in the arc of the scene vs the overall arc of the novel is this: the end of the scene is the platform from which your next scene launches.
- Each chapter is a scene.
- These scenes have an arc to them: action and reaction.
- These arcs of action and reaction begin at point A and end at point B.
- Each launching point will land on a slightly higher point of the story arc.
I had lost the plot of this novel, so first I had to remind myself just what the series was about:
- This series deals with Edwin’s story.
- He is separated from his wife and child because of his task on behalf of the Goddess Aeos.
- Completion of his task takes us to the 3rd plot point of the novel
- Hunting the acolyte of Tauron and the final battle in Aeoven resolves the story
- No conversation can happen unless it advances the plot of this story. EVERYTHING that does not pertain to this story can be cut, saved, and used later.
I have a goal of finishing this by the end of February. When I submit this to my editors, there will be more revisions–that is a given. But because of the work Dave has done, it won’t be the arduous rewrite it would have been.