Line-editing comes easily to me. I can spend hours tweaking sentences, polishing description, making dialog snappier. All of which is akin to lovingly smoothing on the wallpaper while the roof leaks, the furnace belches carbon monoxide and a colony of rabid bats has taken residence in the attic. It’s harder to see the overall arc of my story, the structure of my novel, which was one of the reasons why I signed up for How To Revise Your Novel. I wanted to learn how to find and fix my big problems before I spent hours deciding which shade of off-white to paint the walls (Old Linen or Cream Yellow?), only to discover that the walls need to be knocked out so that the kitchen could be enlarged.
And one of the lovely little tricks I learned from HTRYN is writing one-line descriptions of my scenes on index cards. And now I have both a visual representation of my novel and the flexibility to try new structures by moving my scene cards around.
This was the study floor a while ago (I couldn’t leave my cards down for too long since I have three kids whose passage is heralded by gale-force (ha! note pun) winds):
I laid out my cards in chronological order, but also in three columns each representing a plot thread (innovatively called Main Plot, Subplot A and Subplot B). This way I could see where my main plot was stretched thin, when there was overlap, where there was too large a cluster of scenes that only dealt with one subplot. To see my novel like this was a huge help to me. I can lay out my novel in so many different ways using colored scene cards–based on POV, location, subplots, the presence of certain characters.
For further reading: