Finally, finally, today I finished the chapter-by-chapter breakdown of the novel. It’s 3400 words long and the total editing time for the document is around nineteen hours. I know I was not actively working on it for that long, but in some ways it feels like it took even longer than that. Like, forever.
The task now is to turn what I have into three pages of tight narrative, tracing the flow of the novel from beginning to end and making it sound irresistibly intriguing. I am cautiously optimistic that this part of the task will be easier and faster to accomplish. Okay, maybe not the “irresistible” part, but something at least interesting.
I’ve already bumped by self-imposed deadline for submitting this novel a few times. The last deadline was–today. I don’t think I’m going to make it. :) However, my new goal is two weeks from now. I’ve already bowed out of the F&SF Workshop critique cycle for the next two weeks and crossed some other committments off my to-do list. Let’s see if I can make it happen.
I’ve decided to work on my synopsis for The Seventh Crow today, after weeks of not making any progress on it. This lack of progress is partly due to the intervention of too many “rest-of-my-life” things, and partly due to the difficulty of the task. Writing a three-page synopsis for an 88,000 word novel is not easy.
I did get some good advice from Mike Stackpole during one of his office hour sessions in Second Life. He suggested starting with a chapter-by-chapter breakdown, condensing the main action of each chapter into a few sentences, and not worrying about the length. Once that is finished, it should be much easier to condense and refine further. That made sense to me, so that’s how I’ve been approaching the task.
It’s still not easy, but it does seem do-able.
The part I find most difficult is the self-doubt that creeps in when forced to analyze one’s own work this way. It’s almost enough to make me re-write the entire novel, the questions that raise their ugly heads–is that really all that happens in this chapter? Would character X really have reacted that way? Is that relationship developed as well as it could be?
I’ve decided to deal with all those questions this way–make a note of them and press on. When I’ve come to the end of the chapter-by-chapter, I’ll review them as objectively as I can and decide then if I need to tweak some things in the manuscript itself. I’ve come to know my own brain well enough to know that when faced with hard work (like the synopsis) it is wont to throw all kinds of distractions my way. For now, I’m not going to be fooled into abandoning the task.