Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A debut first: Macro Edits

Also known as content edits, macro edits are the point in the editing process where big story changes are made, those in plot or character. In my case, for this debut novel, it's a merging of two characters (not main characters) into one to tighten and focus the story. I've never done a macro edit before (or a character merge for that matter), but here's how it seemed to me best to go about getting the "big picture" of what needed to change, and how:
1. Write a sentence or two or three describing each scene, or a couple of scenes, onto an index card.
2. Note whose POV each scene is written in.
3. Arrange them on the kitchen table in order.
4. Put on a good story-weaving CD (I chose the soundtrack to Ken Burns' Lewis & Clark).
5. Stare down those cards, one at a time, think, and pray.
6. Make notes on a bright sticky pad on what needs to change in each scene in regards to that macro editing challenge, where applicable.
7. Stick the notes for the changes on the corresponding scene card (having left some blank space on each card for room to do so).
8. Repeat until the cards, or that plot thread, run out.
Supplies needed: index cards. Sticky notes. A pen and a prayer.

It proved far easier than the days I spent trying to rework this story element in my head, with all those scenes buried in the computer, out of sight and out of mind. Or if not out of mind, then blurred and jumbled in mind.

Think I'll leave them out for a day or so (and find somewhere else for meals), to be sure I've hit upon the best ideas for these needed changes. Often the first ideas aren't the best, just the most obvious.

But it's a start.

Do you (if you're a writer) approach macro or content edits in this way? Or is there another method or trick that works better for you? I really (really!) would love it if you shared it in the comments.

16 comments:

  1. Oh good luck Lori! :)

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    1. Thanks Ruth. It's going to be a job of work, but having a plan and seeing it step by step is a stress-reliever.

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  2. Ugh. That picture makes my stomach hurt. I just cut 27,500 words from my MS, and in the process, killed off, combined, and personality-shifted several characters. I'm still bleeding.

    Praying for your process. Thanks for sharing - it's always good to know we're not on this journey alone!

    Blessings,
    Becky

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    1. LOL. Sorry to give you a tummy ache Becky. It actually made me feel a lot better to see all this laid out. But then, I haven't started the actually process yet. I'm going to mourn the character that will be lost in this shuffle, but you never know. He may make an appearance in another story some day. He has a pretty cool back story and situation, so I'm going to save as many chunks of him as I can. :)

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  3. Go Lori!! You've got this, girl :) Look at you and your amazing organization!! I know this book is going to be amazing and can already see how much heart you have in it.

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    1. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at at time. This is my one-bite process. :) It's so good to have you alongside me through this! Thank you.

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  4. I tried this method recently with post-it-notes stuck to my bathroom mirror. It worked pretty well, except the adhesive wasn't strong enough and I kept having scenes drop away.

    Maybe I'll try the table method next time. What happens when you run out of space? Or someone jostles the table?

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  5. I ran out of space but only by about five cards, since the characters in question don't appear until a few chapters into the book (so I didn't have to put the whole book on the table). Turned out those last ones didn't need sticky notes anyway, since those characters exit the story a few chapters before the end too. I just stacked them under the last one.

    Last night after I went to bed the dog came by and wagged his tail across a corner of the table. Brian freaked a bit, since I warned I meant to leave them there overnight. But I have all the cards numbered so it's no big deal.

    I can see how using a bathroom mirror might be counter productive. A little added "steam" to your scenes, huh?

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  6. Wow! You are making tremendous progress. I use sticky notes, but have also used a bulletin board. Advantage of that is using pushpins to hold the notes and you can slide the board (if you don't have it on a wall) under the couch to look at later.

    What I do most often is make a chart on my computer. I'm a chart gal and that helps me the most. Usually just in Word with tables.

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    1. Charts are great, but having them in the computer makes me forget about them. I need to have something physical and separate from the computer that I can touch and see without having to pull up a file, and I seem to need to see the whole thing at once. Does that make me old?

      Now I have all those cards in a neat stack and will go through them one at a time while I edit.

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    2. Makes perfect sense to me! You have a good method that works for you. Hard work at this stage. You're doing great!

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  7. Good grief! Oh, that I ever get that far in a book. ; )

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  8. Well, you see what it all can lead to if you don't stop. Let this be a warning. :)

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  9. Ha! I so wish I was still around the corner--this I'd come over to see and have you show me--plus your new rug! Niiice--but no hands! Where are her hands? Oh well... You're doing so well, and getting it all together and I am so darn proud of you. God is incredible--and you're an example.

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    1. Aww, Patti, I wish you were here too. Who else is going to help me organize my launch party??? God is indeed good!

      This rug was sent without a photo of the weaver, so I don't have a picture of her hands.

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