Fleshing out a story.

I’m sure a lot of authors will agree with me that the first draft of their book is just the first layer of a multi-tiered cake! One of the problems with a first draft too, is that it can either be too long or too short. I’m not entirely sure which is the more irritating offender there, but the problem with my first draft is that it is too short. This means that I have either skimped out on a plot detail or two, or been scanty with my descriptions. Either way, today was the day I decided to tackle this problem head on, and it began with storyline/plot/structure analysis.

I began by opening an entirely separate document and writing a complete outline of my book from beginning to end. This ended up being two pages long and 18 chapters deep. Under each chapter heading I wrote the ‘beats’ of the chapters which I talked about in one of my previous posts.  After scanning this, I could see that when my heroine reached the age of about twenty years, I had somehow missed out the following twenty years of her life, skipping right on excitedly to include the next scene I had in mind.

Twenty years of a person’s life is alot of words/paragraphs which I unnecessarily lost out on, in my hesitation to jump into a particular scene in her forties! What’s worse, I’m not even quite sure why I did it, other than to have her attend some event, and so I paid little attention to the fact I had aged her  between one chapter and the next.

This is why it is so important to be methodical with times, dates and places. These are the things, ( if your Editor doesn’t pick up on,)your readers will drag your name through the mud for! Don’t give them the pleasure. Check your story once, twice or a hundred times if necessary.

So somehow, I had to find a few chapters worth of extra story and integrate it seamlessly! It was a challenge!

Armed with strong coffee, I then scanned back over the outline of all my previous characters to see if I could plausibly bring back any interesting characters into my heroine’s life, (or alternatively, have her forge relationships with some new ones,) all without it seeming a bit contrived. Fortunately I managed to come up with some interesting turn of events, somehow linking to my heroine’s past and hotting things up for her future. I decided that an old flame would return, a secret would be cast into the open and a baby would be born and voila! I had created the possibility of fleshing out my book by an extra three or four chapters, and all I had to do is make sure that they worked in the gap of my time-hopping heroine.

My next step will be to write out the ‘first drafts’ of these new chapters in full, making sure they neatly fit in with the rest of the story without adding even more gaping holes.

The only nagging problem I could have run into with the process of budging chapters along whilst inserting new ones, is that it can be tricky and very confusing. Want my advice? Make a whole new folder and call it ‘Draft 2.’ Leave Draft 1 of your book untouched and work on moving chapters around in the second one. Trust me, there is no chocolate cake out there good enough to compensate for the loss/destruction of your original work. I even keep a copy of my drafts in my memory stick, should my laptop ever break down/get stolen. I may even do the same with Draft 3, and so on.

Kindle or Traditional Book?

I really cannot imagine a life without paperbook or hardback books. I mean the type that have a freshly printed smell, differing thicknesses and textures, inner pages you can bend inside out, dog ear, or throw the whole thing behind the bed (without an error message). You can use books to balance your coffee mug, write a quick phone number on the inner cover, or help support that rickety leg of your coffee table.

Good God, I think my next post should be ‘101 Practical uses for a book despite reading it!’

But let’s face it! Books are versatile little buggers, especially as they come in all shapes and sizes and you can use them in many different ways, just like men really 🙂 Ahem.. for this reason I just cannot get my head around the Kindle ever totally replacing the traditional book.

It might be agreeable to assume that the Kindle serves one function and a book serves another, in that many people prefer to carry less books on flights or holidays, or they might just find books take up too much space at home (yes I get that problem too!) Though I love seeing the lovely colourful spines along my bookshelf just screaming out ‘read me, open me, feel me and savour my words, I’m here whenever you want me.’

So far, I have Adobe Reader on my laptop, to which I downloaded one copy of Phillipa Gregory’s novel ‘The Other Boleyn Girl,’

Have I opened the reader?  Yes!

Have I read that book in the reader?  No!

I think this just proves that my nostalgic reactions are not helping me become fond of reading my novel’s on a screen. I’m pretty sure that the Kindle is far easier than the laptop to handle but it just hasn’t made the cut for me thus far.

My conclusion: I’m not falling over myself to purchase one. I’d be interested in your thoughts as to which is your preference and/or how you predict the future of publishing to develop.

Also, take a peek at this great article on the Kindle 2, and the subsequent comments:

http://www.crunchgear.com/2009/02/25/10-reasons-to-buy-a-kindle-2-and-10-reasons-not-to/

Review: The Time Travelers Wife by Audrey Nifenegger

I thought I would take the liberty of offering some of my opinions on this book, which I am very close to finishing. Audrey Niffenegger’s powerful  novel is based on the time-travelling exploits of Henry de Tamble.

Firstly, if I was to comment on the book’s storyline, I would say that the plot offers both a humorous and serious angle on a very elusive concept. Henry, a pretty ordinary fellow, quite powerlessly travels back and forth within his own lifetime, whilst his long suffering wife, Clare, remains at home wondering whether or not to cook his tea! (Get a sense of B-Witched, with Darren disappearing regularly and thats without a twitch of the nose.)

It was the time travel concept in itself which drew me to the book. I loved the quirkiness of it’s premise, though I didn’t want to ponder too much over the mechanics of time travel and the ‘Einsteinian’ theories related to it; there is some scientific jargon in the latter part of the book in the hope of explaining Henry’s disability away. I enjoyed the book from a fictional vantage, regardless of the possibilities or impossibilities related to the Scientific fields of Genetics and Physics.

With each character perspective Niffenegger gives us the time travelling date, year, and the current ages of the couple. Being all topsy turvy as it is, you might find a section where Henry is 30 and Clare is 8; without warning he just happened to go back in time to be confronted with her at her pre-adolescent age.  As you can imagine, this accounts for some very awkward yet humorous dialogue, all within an impossible circumstance. In fact, times that awkwardness by a thousand, because Henry quite powerlessly vanishes and re-appears completely naked. To the outside world the couple persistently concoct wild bunches of lies to cover up the madness of their reality and Niffenegger chose to write in the first person perspective of both Clare and Henry, which I think is a nice touch giving  a balanced view of both.

I absolutely loved a couple of very beautiful narrative moments in this book, which pulled my emotions into twin depths of sadness and hilarity.

One of these is when Henry visits a ‘Doctor of Genetics’ for assistance in finding a cure. The Doctor more or less insinuates to Henry (quite rightly) that he’s a complete lunatic. Henry gives up and leaves the office feeling deflated. When the Doctor sees Henry disappear in the parking lot from his office window, he is thrown into a cerebral frenzy. The Doctor frantically races outside and jumps in the car to speak to a very non-plussed Clare, who has been sitting patiently there waiting for Henry the whole time. Henry then promptly re-appears in front of both the Doctor and Clare in his Birthday suit. A disgruntled Henry collects his pile of clothes from the floor and says to the Doctor through the car window…

‘Hello,’

“Nice to see you again. I am leaving now. Goodbye.”

He gets inside the backseat and both he and Clare wait for him to go. Their completely neutral expressions are a complete parody to the Doctor’s one of immense disbelief. Oh what a massively humorous scene that is, in one way, but you feel the need to cry at the whole ridiculousness of that situation for poor Henry and Clare.

If I have anything negative to say about this story, it is purely personal. I found the story confusing now and again, due to the nature of the theme.  Also, there is quite a bit of unfamiliar phrasing (‘i took a  bite of the bismark’.. ‘clare comes in with an armful of abaca fiber’… ‘we’ve taken to quoting kierkegaard and heidegger’…. sorry who?’)  which jarred my flow of reading. Due to this I had trouble getting through this book quickly. It took a lot more concentration than I cared to give it at times, but the overall picture is pleasant. It is definitely not a shallow story and I recommend it as a worthwhile read.