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Thursday, January 21, 2010

About those Scene Revisions


I thought that while I was going through this last manuscript I'd try to figure out my process for revising scenes, so I'd be more aware of it in the future.

Here's what I found out. I put down whatever comes into my mind. It's usually in some understandable sequence, but there's a lot of summary and sometimes I pass over it in mini flashbacks. Here's an example of what I mean.

Draft #1 In the assembly this morning, Bins laid down the rules. If anyone stepped out of line the rest of the semester we could all kiss our extra-curricular activities goodbye. I wonder how Keith's taking that news?

When I was going through the chapter I thought that would make a good scene. I'd like to see my principal tell those kids about what will happen if they step out of line again. I'd like to feel what my character is feeling while she listens. I also wanted to know what "extra-curricular" meant.




Draft #2 The assembly only makes me sicker.  I'm closeted in the auditorium with hundreds of students who I'm sure have plots for revenge against the Edmunds. Bins ratchets the tension to high when he announces the crack down on discipline. All athletic competitions, all dances, and clubs will go on official lock down if one more fight or one more act of vandalism happens on campus. Keith's at the back of the auditorium and he doesn't look as happy as he did when we first arrived at school this morning.

Blaaach! (Editorial reaction to "scene.")

Draft #3  The assembly makes me sicker. I’m closed in with hundreds of students, revenge against the Edmunds on their minds. The announcements take about fifteen minutes, then there’s the prom committee report.
I catch Keith’s eye as he stands at the back by the exit. He doesn’t look so carefree as Bins take the microphone to give his weekly principal’s message.
“In this past month we’ve had some incidents at Las Pulgas that do not reflect well on our student body.”
Butts shift in seats and K.T. who’s in front of me jabs Big Teeth who slaps at her without making contact. Someone kicks the back of my chair, but I keep my eyes front and don’t move.
“So I’m giving fair warning to every student in this school.” Bins does this dramatic pause thing, looking into the audience. “One more fight, one more act of vandalism and all athletic competitions, all dances and clubs will be locked down.”
The tension ratchets up and a low buzz of voices travels around the room.
Bins holds up his hands and the buzzing subsides. “Now return to your classes. Have a great week. I don’t want to see any one of you in my office for cutting or disruptive behavior the rest of the year. Got that?”
The student body shambles out, the buzz picking up again all around me. I do a fast walk to English.

Draft #4 The assembly makes me sicker. I’m closed in with hundreds of students, revenge against the Edmunds on their minds. The announcements take about fifteen minutes, then there’s the prom committee report.
Keith’s in the back corner by the exit, chewing on his thumb, his baseball cap pulled down so I can't see his eyes. When Bins steps onto the stage I can taste the anger in the room. He takes the microphone and searches the faces staring up at him. His eyes stop at each of the track team members, then he holds the mic to his mouth.
“In this past month we’ve had some incidents at Las Pulgas that do not reflect well on our school.”
Butts shift in seats and K.T. who’s in front of me jabs Big Teeth who slaps at her without making contact. Someone kicks the back of my chair, but I keep my eyes front and don’t move.
“So I’m giving fair warning to every student in this school.” He pauses, looks at the back where my brother stands. “One more fight, one more act of vandalism and all athletic competitions, all dances and clubs will be locked down.”
The tension ratchets up and a low buzz of voices travels around the room.
Bins holds up his hands and the buzzing subsides. “Now return to your classes. Have a great week. I don’t want to see any one of you in my office for cutting or disruptive behavior the rest of the year. Got that?”
The student body shambles out, the buzz picking up again all around me. I do a fast walk to English.

Is this something like your process? Have you analyzed what you do when you tackle those scenes during revision? 

10 comments:

  1. Thanks for this. I'm not sure how I do it, but your example will probably help me figure it out.

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  2. No, I don't really analyze my process. Stuff like that makes me freak out -- and I really try to avoid that if possible. I just try to work in layers. Word choice. Emotion. Authenticity. Plot tightening. Sometimes I do multiple things in a pass. Sometimes only one.

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  3. I guess I was interested in how I work, so that on those days when the prose and progress is drab I could remember I do have a process. Sometimes I feel I'm in a huge pot of goo, dog paddling.

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  4. Don't stop posting such themes. I like to read articles like that. Just add more pics :)

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  5. I think it's so interesting to read about others' process. I generally try not to think about it too much, but sometimes I'll reach a tough part and I have to remind myself that there is a process to the whole writing thing. That helps me realize that it's okay to just lay things out in a crude sort of way and return to it later.

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  6. I love to read about how other people tackle writing. It's a beast of a thing, and others have wonderful ideas and systems that may work for us. Thanks so much for sharing this. I especially love the specific examples you shared. :-)

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  7. Thanks for sharing your revision process. I always find it fascinating on how a scene grows through revision. Give plenty of love, attention and plenty of sweat...then, BAM! Magic.

    Good luck!

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  8. It's interesting to hear others processes, I don't analyze anything, it would just make me go crazy...

    Love the blog and look forward to following it!

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  9. Thanks all. I appreciate your stopping by and commenting. I like example myself. They can be the picture representing a thousand words . . . well, for me they have to because I can draw absolutely nothing.

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  10. I love reading the examples and seeing how much things change. I don't do scene revisions like this but I really should!

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