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Friday, 4 February 2011

Kicking Pivotal Scenes Into Submission

I've had a lacklustre week as far as writing is concerned.

Since I began this third (fourth??) rewrite of this novel I've been keeping my daily totals in a spreadsheet. I wanted some record of my success at fitting writing in alongside my ever-hectic PhD study. It worked fine until last Thursday when I put a '0' in the column. As I was away for the weekend three more followed. And then Monday to Wednesday this week I think I just gave up. Who cares? I'm only fighting against myself. Yes! And if I can't win that battle how do I expect to win any others?

So last night I dug my heels in and got writing. Then I realised the problem, the thing I'd been avoiding.

The scene I'd halted in the middle of was the first encounter between my protagonist, Danni, and one of the antagonists, Vincent. Working from my last draft I could see the scene was melodramatic, loosely written and involved a lot of direct communication with the reader. In essence, it was rubbish. I'd been hesitating because I didn't know how to improve it. I hadn't had time to let it percolate in my mind since I'd been too busy with everything else.

As I worked on the scene I realised it had to go on longer. Pivotal scenes can be short, of course they can, but this one needed an extensive amount of give-and-take. It's a polite, conversational struggle for power and information. It still needs work but I think the skeleton of it is there. The reader shouldn't come out of it thinking anybody has actually won because the novel is supposed to be more complex than simply good triumphing over bad.

I even managed to write and extend the short scene after it. I'll have to share my favourite lines now because due to the laws of editing, I like them too much to be able to keep them:

‘That’ll be a great story,’ Harriet muttered, starting the engine laconically. ‘How did you die, Mrs Fitch? Well, some slimy prick in a shite-coloured jacket tried to force-feed me custard creams until I threw up. Oh, is that the way you went! I wish I could’ve gone like that.’

I wrote over 1300 words last night, taking my total for this draft up to 9697. I'm playing the tortoise game, I haven't got a choice, but maybe I do need to pick up my pace a little here.

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