Thursday, December 6, 2012

What I Learned in Cheryl Klein's Workshop (An Incomplete List)

I took 27 pages of notes during Cheryl Klein's plot workshop. Phew! All kinds of revision ideas popped into my head. Fix this! Do that! Don't forget X. What about Y? I jotted down ideas all over my notes, all over my homework, and book map. Wow!

And then I took a week off. Cheryl set aside our notes and rest for about a week. Good advice. That allowed the solid revision ideas to settle into place while the more frantic ideas floated away. So I ate Thanksgiving turkey, played lots of card games with my daughters, read a whole bunch, visited relatives--and let revision ideas simmer in my subconscious. The following week, I made a list of seventeen things to work on during revision. Here a few things on my list:

#4 Giving my character more active choices to make.

One thing that really struck me while making my book map was that I don't always let my main character make the big decisions. Too much simply happens to him--outside of his control. During the workshop, Cheryl talked about how active choices have consequences. And that sure makes for more interesting storytelling, doesn't it?

#5 Cut Subplot X

#6 Axing that character who rarely interacts with my main character. He pops into the story--twice--to deliver BIG NEWS.

Cheryl talked about reworking storytelling situations that are unnecessarily difficult, asking "are there facts that you've created that don't contribute to the plot? Or mechanical problems or issues that change the balance?" I have a character who rarely has access to my main character & that created huge mechanical problems for me. Too much unrealistic sneaking around just for a few bits of BIG NEWS. I also found myself pounding a particular subplot into my story like, um, devouring two desserts after eating second-helpings on Thanksgiving. Now I feel really good about simply leaving out that subplot. If only that would make my jeans fit better...

#12 Pinpoint main character's Moment of Emotional Truth.

Cheryl asked us to think about key emotional transformation of our protagonist. I realized that I've been so busy working out the kinks in all the action in my story that I'd forgotten to stop and really emphasize the emotional change in my character, so that the reader will pause for an AHA moment.

#2 Rewrite chapter one.

I loved that first chapter--it's so pretty and sounds so nice when I read it out loud. I pictured that scene the moment I committed myself to working on this idea. During Cheryl's workshop, I realized that it doesn't serve my overall story as well as it could. My well-honed first chapter actually flattens out some of the bigger themes explored later.

I really wrestled with making this change all during my week off. I skipped a writing day--just because I didn't want to mess with that beginning. But then I gave myself permission just to try out a new beginning. I'm still working on Chapter One, but it's so much stronger and much more effective. Even though it's not pretty yet--or quite finished.

So I'm only on Revision Item #2, but I'm more excited about my WIP than ever. Much thanks to Cheryl Klein for her wonderful workshop!


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