Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Writing Shorter Books

So, I’ve emailed Theodosia and the Knights of Horus off to my editor. I’m giving myself a 48 hour break, then I have to dive into my next project, Beastologist 2, which is due to said editor on January 15. Luckily, I’ve already done a lot of work on this project. I have a pretty solid outline, a bunch of research notes, and the first fifteen pages already done.

One of the things that’s really difficult for me is resetting my internal clock from a 300 page manuscript with six subplots to a 70 page manuscript with maybe one tiny subplot. I imagine it’s like moving from a four bedroom ranch house in the suburbs to a studio apartment in the city. There’s no room for all the things you’re used to having!

A critical step that helps me with this resetting is structure. In order to help me make this transition, I have a structure template that I use. The one that I’m currently using for these shorter books is adapted from a template Blake Snyder features in his enormously helpful book SAVE THE CAT. (Which I highly recommend you add to your collection of plotting tools.)

So once I have a general idea what the elements of the story are going to be, I start plugging them into the template. That way, I know I have seven pages for a setup and that by page 9 the inciting incident needs to happen and that around page 18 I better be breaking into the second act. By focusing on what limited space I’m working with, it really helps both my conscious and subconscious mind focus on what the critical elements of the story and characters are. I don’t get distracted by extraneous details or unplanned side trips and cull the story down to its essence.

It’s kind of like taking a piece of 8 x 11 paper out to draw on versus a 24 x 36. I now understand where the edges are, what the limitations of space look like, and I can proceed accordingly.


mrskacosta said...

I just wanted to tell you I think you are brilliant! I love theodosia thank you for bringing her to us! I will look forward to the big theo frenzy and a possible movie! You are one of the Greats dont change a thing! Thank you again for being you!!!

Robin L said...

Why thank you mrskacosta! What a very nice thing to say. And here's hoping you're right about the Theo frenzy and movie deal!