I’m reaching the end of revisions on Joining the Draken; at this point I’ve made my structural changes and am filling in some gaps and smoothing out a few continuity issues.
Then it will be on to final tweaking and refinement before I go on the Great Agent Hunt.
A couple weeks ago I did a pacing/sub-arc/continuity verification exercise that I found very useful, so I though I’d describe it here. It was a somewhat more elaborate version of the calendar checking that Patricia Wrede mentioned on her blog.
First, I set up a timeline on the left side and sections indicating major characters/plot lines along the top.
Then I added key plot cues on the left side.
Finally, I used handy little colored dots to plot out when important things happen in the story relating to different events and characters.
This gave me a solid visual of the novel that helped me check a few things:
- Continuity — I could more easily confirm that the key events were stacking up correctly. This was especially important when there was a dependency among different sub-plots.
- Rhythm — I could verify that things were building the way I wanted them to.
- Frequency — I could verify that I was actually visiting each sub-plot and character at an appropriate interval (so the reader can hopefully remember who they are).
- Balance — I could check the give and take in pacing among the different sub-plots.
- Temporal spacing — I could check that different things had the necessary percolation/build time. Not in terms of pacing, but in terms of “lived” time for the characters.
I found this process very helpful. It helped me catch a few minor continuity issues. More importantly, it helped me fine-tune the interplay among the different sub-plots and determine where to put some floater scenes (things that I wanted to have happen, but had some flexibility in terms of when they should happen).
As a result I shifted a few things around, using blank labels to adjust placement in time.
It would also be helpful to go through this exercise using page/word count as the Y axis instead of calendar time. That would give a better pacing check, although it wouldn’t be as useful for confirming temporal feasibility.
Do you have any interesting strategies for sanity checking the plot during revisions?