My Story Exploded Into a Pile of Post-It Notes
Last weekend I started the Revision Sprint with Jennie Nash of Author Accelerator. In a nutshell, it's an intense two-weekend online adventure. Jennie is teaching us how to revise the first three chapters of a completed rough draft. Jennie breaks down a big process into logical and meaningful steps that will help me get to the next finish line. I love it!
We've got one more weekend to go, but this is what I'm learning so far:
1. Don't even think about revising until your draft is structurally rock solid.
Before revising all 220 pages of my memoir, I had to make sure my rough draft wasn't resting on precarious quicksand! This wasn't the time to focus on alliteration and metaphors. Nope. Jennie had us start with a Two Tier Outline. Basically, it's a two page document - Jennie's strict about length - that includes a brief description of essential scenes with a note about WHY that scene is important. In my head, "Oh, I got this. Easy."
After completing my outline, I realized (with Jennie's wise feedback) that I had too much "this happened and this happened and this happened" which can get pretty boring even if those scenes are about my romantic escapades (or lack thereof!). Plus, I noticed that some of my big message WHYs were repeated.
So, I revised my Two Tier Outline, but this time I started with the big message WHYs of my book. If you study the photograph, those are the bigger yellow Post-it Notes. Then, I went through the entire book again and wrote every major scene on a little pink Post -it. Then, I put each scene under its matching WHY. Wowza! Here's what happened:
I moved scenes. (For example, Chapter 1 scenes got moved to the final third of the book.)
I noticed that my book is split into four main parts - or movements.
I wrote a prologue.
I dumped scenes.
I combined scenes.
I moved scenes
I got clarity about several of my big message WHYs.
And then, my head exploded! There was Post-it carnage everywhere!
"Oh, goodness," I screamed, "my neat and tidy draft is blown apart!"
But, my sweet husband noticed something. "Lorrie, you seem really happy right now!" Yes, this is an amazing process because I know I'm going to get to something better even though it will take ALL. THE. TIME!
2. If you can't come up with a good title, maybe it's a sign of bigger problems.
I'm usually pretty good at coming up with titles. I don't stress about it. I never try to do it before I write a draft. I reread the work, and then let it inspire me, often lifting phrases right from the page. However, with this book, I'm stumped! I don't love any of my title ideas, and I've had a lot! I cannot tell you how many nights I've stayed awake thinking about titles.
But, maybe that's a good thing?
Maybe it was evidence that I didn't have super duper clarity on my big message WHY?
Oh la la. That's it! I've got faith in this process and I know the just right title will come to me when it's ready!
3. It's good to revise with a community!
So, Writers, keep going. When your head explodes because revision is BIG work, embrace all the Post-its and carry on.