No? Not always?
Me too. I've struggled with this beast for five long years. Five years of wanting perfection and struggling with the same issues over and over again.
Writing tick? Repetitive words? Got it.
Plot drifts? Yup, in abundance.
Chapter break confusion? Maybe you're one of those incredible authors who instinctively knows where a chapter begins and ends. But that's not me. Call it payback for being a panster.
This round of edits on Fairless I determined to cut and be ruthless. I printed off a hard copy, took out a red pen and went to work... on the words. The small stuff. The tiny, inconsequential matters that affect nothing.
It didn't take long before I realized what was holding me up. And it had to do with chapter structure. As in, I didn't have a clue when one was done and when a new one should begin. You'd think this would be pretty straightforward, now wouldn't you?
It was time for help, so I dug through my mountain of writing notes and re-discovered this little gem:
According to the Snowflake Method of Plotting, chapters are either Goal, Conflict, Setback or Reaction, Dilemma, Decision (and typically switch back and forth). Sounds simple enough, but when I applied it to my story, I discovered how little I really understand about writing.
Wow. Eureka moment!
Using this formula, I discovered I ended every chapter with resolution. Everything hunky-dory. No setback to entice a reader forward. No decision to show the character's development.
Focusing on big-picture edits is not my first love. I'd rather play with words, not chapter breaks or character arcs. But once that red pen really got to work, things came into focus.
Let me give you an example. This is from the end of one of my chapters. Here is the first draft:
"And what of you?" Liam says.
"Trust me. I'll be fine." I have to stay and distract the Guard to buy Liam precious time to escape. He lies down, never taking his eyes from me. Does he feel the same connection? Does he know who I am? The young Smidgeons lift the corner of the blankets and shoot out the window, taking him to safety.
"Leave." James waits at my foot, ready to take me from this ghastly place.
A Guard appears in the distance, flying on the back of a giant black creature. The sound grows louder with each beat of its stubby wings.
"There's no time," I say. "Get back. Stay out of sight." I hurry into the shadows, willing my heart to stop pounding so loud. James sits on my shoulder and his eyes are wide saucers in the dark.
The Guard hovers outside the window. "Time for dinner Fitzpatrick," he says.
I swallow. James presses closer.
"Hey, wake up." When Liam doesn't answer, the Guard climbs off the creature and walks up to the empty cot. "What the hell?"
We're out of options. He only has to search the cell and find us. I set James on the floor, remove my cap and shake out my white hair. It’s time to test my Fairless skills.
"Liam's not here," I say. "But then you've already discovered that."
The Guard whirls. His mouth gapes open. “Fairless, foul—“
“Oh, please.” I glide closer. “Do you really want to insult me?”
I catch and hold his arm, willing the color forward. Red-brown dust from his uniform floats in the air. He cries out, but I hold tighter. “Call off your ride. Send it away.”
“To hell I will.”
I urge more color to come forward. He grimaces in pain.
“Now,” I say.
“Go, Smudge. Leave me for a bit.”
The black thing hovers near the window. I tighten my grip, ready to drain more color. “Convince him. Tell him to return in the morning.”
“And spend the night in this place?”
“Your choice. One night in this wonderful, sweet smelling room, or a lifetime without feeling in your right arm.”
“Clear out,” he says. “I need to tend the prisoner. Come back in the morning. That’s an order.”
The creature leaves in a whirl of beating wings. I press the Guard back until he falls onto the disgusting cot. “Good decision.”
James flies down and lands by my foot. “Go,” he says.
I don’t need prompting. But I have one more thing to say. “Enjoy your evening.”
And here's the edited version:
"And what of you?" Liam says.
"Trust me. I'll be fine." I have to stay and distract the Guard to buy Liam precious time to escape. He lies down, never taking his eyes from me. Does he feel the same connection? Does he know who I am? The young Smidgeons lift the corner of the blankets and shoot out the window, flying him to safety.
"Leave." James waits at my foot, ready to take me out of the ghastly place.
But we're out of time. The sound's louder now. Something massive approaches the window.
"Get back," I whisper to him. "Stay out of sight."
We're trapped. A Guard fills the opening, cutting off our only avenue of escape and I shrink into the darkness, wishing my skin didn't glow.
I begin the next chapter where I left off- which is a stronger opening sequence as well.
I hope this helps. And please feel free to share your ideas, thoughts and comments. I'd love to hear from you!