Wednesday, July 14

Posted by Laurel Garver on Wednesday, July 14, 2010 18 comments
Museum trips, board games, long meals--these have eaten up my available writing time the past 10 days while family was visiting. Re-entry into my writing life feels very clumsy at the moment. I've tried to visit a few blogs to get back in the swing. Christine over at the Writer's Hole has a fun link I played with. You insert text samples and the algorithm matches your style to that of famous authors. I consistently got either James Joyce or Chuck Palanhnuik. :-D

Re-entry also meant re-reading critiques on these last chapters I need to revise. I've already made needed cuts two weeks ago, and it was pretty painless. My current to-do list includes expanding two dialogue scenes that are too fast paced. I'm finding this quite a weird challenge. I tend to overwrite in draft, then cut repeatedly in revision. I've gone back to earlier drafts of these scenes and found very little worth re-introducing. I guess it's time to pull out the el-cheapo spiral notebook and freewrite a bunch of new material, then revise it down to something useful.

What's your process for expanding a thin scene? Does plumping in revision come naturally? Or do you, like me, need to treat it more like "back to the drawing board"?
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  1. Thanks for the I Write Like link - that was fun! Yeah, I'm with you, when I have to fill out a scene, I usually have to go back to the drawing board.

  2. I'm weird, but I love going back and plumping up a scene. Yeah, I have to reread the story and get reacquainted with my characters and what they're doing at that point, but it helps to reestablish character and it's all good.

  3. I don't think I've EVER had to plump up a scene...always the opposite.
    (with the exception of scenes where I need to do research and insert what I learned where needed.)

    I'm just back from a longish vacation, and it is indeed difficult to get back into a routine. 'Re-entry' sums it up perfectly.

    Happy Humpday. :)

  4. I've been doing that same thing recently, and I take a two pronged approach. I re-imagine the scene, but I check the text of the existing scene for lines that still move the plot along or lines I like.

  5. I have the opposite approach. I write a thin rough draft and then go back and plump it up in revision. Thanks for the link. *runs off to play*

  6. I am also re-entering, Laurel. Here's to us!

    Regarding fleshing out scenes, I find that I have to re-think it and connect more with the characters. This helps me visualize how they might react internally to the dialogue, or what physical reactions might occur to the conversation. So, yes, a total rewrite is usually the way I go.

  7. Most of my scenes start thin . . . so I fill in some description of setting and of the people talking . . . I try to imagine the conversation and all the things going through their head. Boy hard to pin the process down.

    So I played yesterday: Oscar Wilde and Stephen King. Hmmmm . . .

  8. Thanks for the cool link. :-)

    I usually have to look at it with a "back to the drawing board" attitude. If I'm really struggling, I tap into my husband's creativity.

  9. Funny, I never think about plumping a scene. It seems to happen organically. There's something the scene calls for to raise the stakes or create tension. If it's not obvious, then I assume the scene doesn't need "plumping." That said, no line in my first draft goes unedited. The move from my first to second draft is itself "back to the drawing board."

  10. I'm totally having a hard time getting back into the writing scene. I lost my groove when we had vacation and then there was family staying with me. Hoping to get it back soon!

  11. When I go back to plump a scene, I try to see it from the reader's point of view. What's missing? Often it needs grounding. I tend to be spare with setting.

    Welcome back. I hope your writing goes well.

  12. I just tried it and found out I write like Margaret Atwood. Then I found this:

    She tried it and found out she writes like... Stephen King!

  13. Re-entry is always a little strange to me too. I like it in some ways but don't in others. Sounds like you had a nice time with family.

    Thanks for the thoughts over at my blog. While sharing the 'why we do it' with her, I've also encouraged her not to be intimidated with the process. I know had I been told this it would have been a great help. But it's never to late to learn, is it?

    Thanks and blessings,
    Karen :)

  14. Well that was certainly fun. I got plug in a couple flash fiction published on my blog and one I'm working on, my WIP, and a blog post.
    Stephen King , Vladimir Nabokov, William Gibson for my various lash fiction pieces, Dan Brown for a blog post and Arthur C. Clarke for my current WIP.

  15. Margo: glad you enjoyed the link. Yeah, I think creating material comes from a different part of my brain than the reviser/editor.

    Kathi: sounds like you're an underwriter in draft--and plenty of people are. It's interesting to learn how others approach various writing tasks.

    Lola: Good to know I'm not alone in nearly always trimming in revision.

    I think my CPs were totally right about these scenes--that I was rushing. And really just a few sentences fixed it. What was weird was my need to freewrite a lot to create those few sentences. I just have a very verbose brain I guess. :-D

    JEM: re-imagining--that's it exactly. I looked at those rushed sections and sat back thinking, "Slow down. Listen. What's needing to be said here that I'm missing? What have I been afraid or unwilling to hear from these characters?" Some transitions needed to be rewritten, but otherwise it was just easing in a few new sentences to the scene.

  16. Lovy: I'm curious, do you consider yourself a planner or a "seat of your pants" drafter? I've been wondering if planning/pantsing and under/overwriting are somehow linked.

    Christine: Good luck with your re-entry! Excellent point--really listening to the characters. I have another scene to revise with jumping conflict, and I haven't always listened well to my MC's British uncle. I've somehow contorted him into this angry guy, when he's very restrained elsewhere. Restraint is harder to write, though. :-D

    Janet: Well, sure, adding material bit-by-bit in draft is something I do. But I've almost never needed to add material this late in the game--at the fourth major rewrite. It's an odd gear shifting.

    I love that you got Oscar Wilde--your humor has some of the same understated wit. :-)

    Shannon: there are some great suggestions here in the comments about how one finds ideas for plumping in revision.

    VR: I know what you mean about organic scene building, which is why I tend to freewrite when my CPs feel I need to fill out a scene. That way the new material feels just as organic and flows well with the scene.

  17. Tamara: I think visitors tend to wreck our writing routine more than vacations--they are rarely self-entertaining and need so much attention. Wishing you all the best in re-establishing your routine!

    Theresa: great point--one I've heard in a number of revision books. Stepping away from one's authorial intention is hard, though, isn't it?

    Christine at Writer's Hole also had fun running published excerpts through to see how they came up. The only one that was accurate was Tolkein. :-D

    Karen: aside from the guilt I wasn't writing, it was a nice visit. I wish I were a better multitasker. I'm the opposite--an extreme concentrator.

    Regarding sentence diagramming, I think the way to make it less intimidating is to remind yourself you're just breaking language into simpler components. You're making grammar more visual and easier to understand. Right?

    Holly: I hadn't tried excerpts from different pieces--mine were all from my novel. I wonder what results I'd get if I tried what you did. Would I be as consistent? Interesting.

  18. What a fanastic post Laurel! I must say that when I have a thin scene I plump it up, which comes easy for me because when I write my first draft I never give enough information, I work more on the flow of the story and I add a few things of what I'd like to accomplish but the revisions is where the detail really comes in.

    Revisions give me trouble!