BrianWFoster’s Tenth Law of Writing

I’m a happy writer this morning and not just because the Saints won last night. 

I’ve never been satisfied with Chapter 1 of Power of the Mages.  After my latest revisions, I am.  How did I attain this transformation from total dreckitude to literary masterpiece?  I’m glad you asked.

  1. I added emotion.
  2. There were these two paragraphs that had been hanging around since literally my first write of the chapter.  Deleting them was almost physically painful, but I finally did.  It’s not that they were horribly written; they just didn’t do anything for the story.  It’s amazing what a good deletion will do for you.

Neither of those changes was that huge, though.  The big transformation came in changing the focus of the second scene.

The scene, as it was written, emphasized Xan’s sense of wonder at being in a dream world.  He observes all these mysteries and wants to solve them.

Xan is smart.  It’s good to show his intellectual curiosity, so I didn’t fully eliminate this element.  The story, however, is not about the dream world. 

I hate dream sequences and do everything in my power to limit them in my book.  I can’t believe that I’m forced to use them to the extent that I do.  I have no desire to highlight them.

Instead, the scene is about a young man who couldn’t get lucky walking down Hollywood Boulevard carrying a stack of hundred dollar bills and how he relates to a beautiful girl.  The change didn’t require major surgery, just a few tweaks to modify the emphasis.

Which brings us to:

Tenth Law: Focus on the Story

At some point in your writing process, you have to ensure that each scene fits in the story.  If you outline, you have to examine the scene to make sure it fulfilled what you intended in your planning stage.  If you’re a discovery writer, you ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is the scene’s purpose?  Does it achieve that purpose?
  • How does the scene advance the plot?  If you can’t figure that out, maybe the scene is a candidate for deletion.
  • Are you getting as much out of the scene as you could?

In my continuing effort to improve my book, I’m working on that last point now.  The novel is mainly follows Xan’s POV, but I have three other characters that feature prominently from the start of the book.  I do a good job with establishing a subplot for Lainey from the start.  Not so with Dylan and Brant.  This lack becomes apparent when events come to a climax.

In the current version, their initial POV scenes move the plot forward but don’t hint at their story arcs.  For my latest revision, I’m introducing their central conflicts when we first see through their eyes.  Doing it at that point does the following for me:

  • Shows continuity of character arc throughout the book.  Dylan, in particular, feels whiny throughout the second draft.  Giving insight on his core motivations will help with that.
  • Emphasizes the importance of the future conflict for the beginning.  The fact that I devote space from the start underscores the significance it will play in the story.

3 thoughts on “BrianWFoster’s Tenth Law of Writing

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