Last time, I described how I started writing my first book, up until the point where I split the chapters for point-of-view (POV) and thought I had fixed that problem.
To make a long story somewhat shorter, it turns out there are at least two more levels of POV to consider. One is consistency. Three years later, I think my revisions might have caught all the times I accidentally slipped POV for a sentence or two. I hope. Sigh. It is harder than you think.
The final(?) level of POV is also called “character voice.” This is what makes it easy for the reader to identify when character A is speaking/thinking instead of character B, even without the author saying so. Of course, the author should still say so, but if one character speaks like a cowboy and thinks like a cowboy and moves like a cowboy, while another character speaks, thinks, and moves like a scientist, the story will be more realistic and authentic as well as easier to read. I’m still working on this level.
Okay, back to the story.
I now had 33 chapters of “POV-corrected” story. I’m ready to go, right? This is about the time that I heard about plot beats and story structure. I thought a story was structured however it was made, wasn’t it? And I had beats. Look, I could prove it.
So I took several different story structuring methods that mostly made sense to my warped brain and smooshed them together into my own little chart. Then I reverse-outlined every chapter of my book and marked every beat. I also marked whose POV was in each chapter.
Yep, that led to a round of revisions, too.
Then I learned about chapter goals for characters (I already knew about chapter goals for authors) and chapter twists/questions/cliffhangers/pageturners (whatever you want to call them). So I added those to my little reverse-outline chart, too.
That was a sad day. That was the point that it became very, very obvious why my story slowed down in the middle. I had four– FOUR!– chapters that had the same– boring!– chapter goal. Oh, sure, there was good stuff in the chapters. There was important stuff. There was funny stuff. There was… too much stuff without enough actually happening. Sadness.
It took me a week or three to go through those four chapters and slice them into little bits. This part stays, and all these parts go, and this part stays… It might have been around here that my “deleted scenes” file became my best friend. I told myself, “It’s okay to cut it because it’s going in the deleted scenes. If I end up needing it back, it’s a simple cut-and-paste.” In the process, the book dropped to thirty chapters.
Then, of course, I had to redo my reverse-outline.
I’d been taking my half-chapters to critique group all this time, and I’d gotten a few beta readers, too, but now seemed like a good time to get some more. So I did, which is a story all by itself, but I’ll spare you.
Early feedback complained about certain chapters having no conflict, no interest. “Boring!” So I took a deep breath and started revising. Again. Some of them ended up with (relatively) minor revisions, some with major facelifts and all-new scenes.
I was reading through a chapter myself and noticed that I actually said, “and over the next week they became friends.” Yes, just like that. Um… their friendship is actually a plot point for a character’s motivation. Did I really just brush over it like that? Face palm. Talk about unbelievable! What kind of author am I, anyway? (Don’t answer that.)
So I gutted the chapter and wrote an all-new middle where they actually had reasons to become friends. Just to make the rewrite more painful, this is a chapter I had ALREADY completely rewritten three times, in three different POVs, trying to get it right.
And on that painful note, I’ll end this segment. See you next time!
M. C. Lee
© 2018 M. C. Lee LLC. All rights reserved.