Monday, April 20, 2009

Work in Progress (and I do mean 'work')

I've made a lot of notes for myself during the ongoing revisions to my novel. Something like 100 pages of notes since the beginning of March. The Post-It(tm) above is likely the most valuable note I've made. It shows the conflicting motivations of the main characters as applied to the protagonist's central goal. Why is this little note useful to me? Because it's taken the last week to figure out that this is the basic structure I'm going to use for the last 2/3 of the novel, and a lot of hard thinking was necessary to get me to this point. When all else fails, I draw charts. This is not the only chart I've made lately. I have a much larger one that details the conflicts in every scene in the last 15 chapters of the book and how the characters' goals change (or don't) as each event in the story unfolds. I didn't make that chart on a Post-It(tm), of course.

What I liked best about this exercise is that it made clear to me that nearly everyone in the story is my protagonist's antagonist, even if they don't know it. Ta-da: instant and constant conflict. Yay! Conflict=good reading. Also, this makes it much easier for me to revise the book; my story has suddenly become more clear to me. I was floundering there for a while last week, which frankly terrified me. But I'm better now, ta awfully.


  1. I so can't wait to read that book!

  2. This is cool, Scott. Thanks for posting it. I have stuff like this, but it's never as photogenic as yours. And, usually, once I finish making the chart, I don't need it anymore. The act of doing it is usually the biggest help.

    Your post reminded me of something you might be interested in. Hit and Run Magazine ( is looking to publish notes and other raw materials that you use to create your final piece of writing. For instance, you could sent them this image. But, I don't know that much about it, so you may want to look into it more if it's something that might be fun for you.

  3. I do things like this as well. I wish I could post up my diagrams, but I can't. I wish you luck. I can see that you've been very busy and preoccupied with this project. That hard work will pay off in the end, I can tell.

  4. You forgot to add me in there. I conflict with your chart of motivations.

    100 pages of notes? Ha ha. You're crazy.

  5. I do stuff like this too, but not to your level. Wow!

  6. Traci: I can't wait to finish this book! Five hours of revisions last night; it's a wonder I have any brain left at all.

    Davin: Oh, yes, the creation of the chart was more important than the chart, but I'm keeping it on my writing desk so I don't get off-task, to remind me that each scene is part of the dramatic arc and that I have to watch the conflict. Otherwise I find myself doing a line edit, which is not the point. The hitandrun site looks cool; likely if I send them something, it'll be a more spectacular piece than the Post-It.

    Michelle: Why can't you post your charts? Super secret stuff? I'm glad I'm not the only person who does things like this.

    Justus: You are the wind beneath my wings. Or something. I may be crazy with my pages of notes; sometimes I think I've written more about the story than I've written of the story. See above comments about missing brain.

    Lotusgirl: I wish I could just sit down and write prose, but I can't. Maybe it's my early visual arts training, but I always fall back on maps and drawings when I get stuck. There's a distinct possibility that I spend so much time on things like this because deep down I miss doing visual art and this is how I let it out. The mind is a weird place. My mind is, anyway.

  7. I was fascinated by your comment about a loose button on a jacket at Lotus girl's. This chart is helpful to see. Thanks for posting it.

  8. Great post : ) Also, since you referenced "Hamlet" in your lovely chart, I'm wondering if you're finding a lot of inner conflict within your protagonist. My students have started to notice that, in many cases, the protagonist is, to a degree, also the antagonist. I don't know why your post made me think of that, but I figured I'd share. Keep up the good work :)

  9. Meredith: Telling details like the button are a hallmark of Russian authors that I adore, like Turgenev or Dostoyevski. Though they can also build a cathedral of words when they want. Lotusgirl's blog is fabulous!

    KLo: Internal conflict is, I think, the sort of drama that endures best and has the most meaning. My chart references "Hamlet" because my novel is a sort of retelling of that story. Thanks for the pun on "post." It took me a minute to get it!