Thursday, September 17, 2009

Keeping a To-Do List for Your Novel

When you write - especially, I assume, when you write often - you develop work habits unique to you.  At least, I *thought* that making a to-do list for my novel was my own little neurotic way of making sure all those plot strings got snipped or tied or woven somehow.  But in a recent #kidlit chat via Twitter (find past transcripts here), I discovered that others do this, too. 

It’s a handy revision tool, a to-do list, and it reads like, well, my Saturday afternoon chore list might.  So presented below, part of the to-do concocted when going through the first round of revisions for Autumn Winifred Oliver Does Things Different (there were four rounds total).  What’s interesting to me is that some of this content never made it into the book, and other parts were edited out completely.  For instance, I decided against having Autumn be a “ghost child” – that is, having her brush with death scare everyone.  It detracted too much from the focus of the plot.  But other parts most assuredly made it in, and some of them are my favorite scenes in the book.

Autumn to-do list

-2 new chapters:  both, bridging the gap between pro-park and anti-park. 

-Next chapter:  list (see white notebook sheet) and write Rockefeller. 

-Chapter after that:  town meeting, under schoolhouse.  (See nrw notes)

-beef up ending: 

-but these old mountains aren’t as strong as they used to be.  Airplanes, weathered down

-no panthers, no chestnuts, no Cherokee, no gramps…maybe this place is changing, after all

-perfectly preserved as a pickle (see synopsis here)

-looking at gravesite – knowing right and wrong didn’t seem to take.  Can’t always tell what’s right and what’s wrong. 

-aunt Lydia still mad at me for leaving her in the dog trot

-mention cody’s rock collection at least one more time, and earlier

-after tilly’s proposal – have other widows in crowd mad cause they didn’t think of it first.  Gramps is kinda a big shot around here, being a widower and his dealings on the park.  Will likely be rich someday.  A good catch

-play up autumn being a “ghost child” more – not everyone knows she’s still alive.  Have them pinch her, etc.  when they see her

-look to increase the struggle over the move in with gramps – maybe mama doesn’t want to move to Knoxville…

-play up the food scene with gramps to show more of mama’s relationship with him.  Gramps eats during prayer.  Katie in here, too – show some likeability

-end of star scene – maybe take autumn’s approval of cody out?  She’s quick to judge him.

-hint earlier – park going awry, autumn is only one who knows.  She suspects col. Earlier?

-make col. More evil by having him break one of the superstitions.

-look back at earlier version (chapter 26, then) when cody has fit over gramps’ treatment of peter…add back in? 

-emphasize the chestnut trees disappearing…

-make gramps feel responsible for losing everyone’s homes, though no one blames him.

-double-check that FDR was standing in 1934.

-include picture of pine trees in Gramps’ coffin

-make sure there are markets in nyc on 53rd

-beef up letters chapter – see nrw notes – more scenery, etc. 

-eliminate all mention of “donation” in end notes

-last few chapters – keep her worried about jobs, homes!

-Introduce lawyer – Gramps hires with his own money to fight for everyone.  Spends his entire savings. 


-be sure and include that they don’t know what’s going to happen, or when.  They might get to stay there forever, or they might get kicked out next week.  The hard part was not knowing. 

Whew!  Looking back, that looks like the whole book! J  Once I completed the item, I crossed it off in my computer using a strike-through over the font – very satisfying!  Every one of those items was crossed off in some manner.  I used this same technique for the upcoming Selling Hope.  I’m starting a new novel now, and looking at the list above reminds me just how much work (and fun!) lies ahead.

So, do *you* keep a to-do list for your works-in-progress?  If so, care to share a snippet or two from it?  


Christi Atherton said...

Always love your blog, Kristin! I don't ever know what to do with editing. I mean real editing, not line editing. That's where I need the most help. I'm fairly confident in my writing, but when it comes to real editing, I feel clueless. It seems silly to say, but I feel like I've never learned to edit. I've heard about Darcy Pattison's novel revision workshops. Have you done one? What do you recommend? Thanks!!

Kristin Tubb said...

Hi, Christy - thanks for stopping by! Yes, I actually organized a novel revision retreat in Nashville a few years ago, led by Darcy - she's AMAZING! If you can get to her workshop, definitely do. I felt very much the way you do, and she gave me a whole new perspective on revising. If you can't make it to a retreat, check out her workbook, NOVEL METAMORPHOSIS. It's on Amazon, and covers a lot of what she does in the workshops. Good luck - revising, like writing, takes practice! :-)

Kristin Tubb said...

Oh, Christi, I just saw I spelled your name incorrectly in the last post - so sorry. Good luck with the revisions!

Shelli said...

yes and by the time i get through it Ive changed the book and have to redo to dos :)

Christi Atherton said...

Thanks, Kristin! (And don't worry about the spelling. It was nice of you to correct it!) I went to a conference in Indy this past weekend with Sara Grant of Working Partners in the UK. Part of the conference was about revision, and at the end, she held up Novel Metamorphosis and said it was the one revision book we had to have. If it's not for sale at the conference this weekend, I'm ordering it from Barnes & Noble next week! Looking forward to seeing you in a few days!!