Saturday, January 12, 2013

Novel Craft: The Big Picture

Hi folks, I'm continuing my series of Novel Craft. This series is to help writers that have a solid draft and want to bring their work up another level. This week I'm going to write about the "Big Picture."

I have noticed that writers whose books sell have really thought about their novels in global ways. Much of writing is micro-driven. It's about the words and the sentences and the paragraphs. Then it is about the chapters.  At some point you need to pull that camera-eye back so far that your is looking at the book. Embrace the macro.  

How do you refine the big picture of the book?  It takes massive blocks of time.  You must read your novel from end to end, a few times running. It's the only way to get an accurate sense of what is going on in your novel. As you read, keep tabs on through-threads in your story -- this includes endowed objects, themes, side plots, and the timeline. Look for incomplete promises. Did you promise to solve something but never get around to it? Either pull the promise or complete it.

You also want to be sure that you characters are working. Do your characters grow organically, or is all the growth clustered in one area of the book.  You do want some stops and starts -- a book is a little bit like a roller coaster ride. A very tame ride that putters through a colorful but uninteresting landscape is not worth a reader's time. Throw your character off some cliffs. Wreck their car. Kill their best friend. Betray them. Add surprises, twists and falls to strengthen your characters. The usual stuff: find humanity in a baddie, find a monster is a goodie, have everyone really mess up. Note places of blandness and think of ways to add emotional drama and exciting action. Don't forget to lighten things up, dashes of comic relief will help reader's embrace the story journey.

The most important thing is to read the book from cover to cover a few times. What needs to be done will be glaringly obvious. I promise.

Come back next week for more Novel Craft. Meanwhile, seize the day!

This week's doodle: "Blue Fox."


A quote for you pocket.

Love is the outreach of self toward completion.  Ralph W. Sockman.

7 comments:

Vijaya said...

Molly, the first couple of revisions are killers for me because of the big picture stuff. It's so hard to get it right. I'm still struggling with my historical.

Mirka Breen said...

Eloquent, as always, Molly.
I think of the big picture as that residue the reader is left with, that something really got pulled together and has reverberations that continue long after. You won’t get this form a list or form episodes that don’t come together.
It’s our job as story tellers to achieve this big picture. Like musicality that transcends the notes.

MollyMom103 said...

Hi, Vijaya, for me the big picture stuff is last. I can't do it until I have a solid draft. Science will be your friend here. Experiment and draw conclusions. Eventually you discover something.

Ah, Mirka, we are circling the same stuff. "Pulling together", I like that, it implies that you have stuff -- it's finding the perfect arrangement that will best display it all that's the trick.

I also like the idea of transcendence. It takes experimentation to find success. I also have learned a lot from nature -- takes a long time to carve out a landscape.

Candilynn Fite said...

I agree, the only way to see the big picture of your story is to read it cover to cover, or first page to last page, making notes along the way.

SCBWI REP said...

Ok, first page to last page. Work for me. I make notes on the second pass. I just read it because notes slow me down. I have heard some make verbal notes. I might try that some time.

Faith Pray said...

I love coming here for writing advice. You have such a great way of wrapping it all together so that it makes sense and isn't too intimidating. Thank you!

MollyMom103 said...

You are always welome, Faith!