High Altitude View

Technology is a pretty cool thing.  I am writing this post 35,000 feet over the Eastern seaboard, as I fly down to Atlanta enroute to San Antonio.  Onboard wi-fi is rocking!  What’ll they think of next?

Staring out the window, all the fields and towns look tiny, and there are patterns there that are not visible except from this height.  It is a pretty amazing view, and I find myself mulling things over in my WIP.

As I get further into my story, I am starting to consider the structure of the scenes, the pacing, the way certain bits of information are shared with the reader.  I think I’ve posted before that I tend to write extremely messy first drafts that go all over the map–so there is a definite need to take all that content and pair it with a structure that keeps my novel from sagging in the middle, or dragging at the end.  In my mind, good structure really is about balance between the different parts of the story.

Creating and applying a structure to accomplish these goals can be tricky.  It’s a bit like the Nazca lines down in Peru.  If you haven’t heard about these fascinating lines, I’ll share a little history.  For hundreds of years, the locals and then the Europeans who arrived in the area near Lima, Peru knew that there were strange man-made rock formations out in the desert.  They had no clue what they were for or who put them there.  In the early twentieth century, when the airplane was invented and people started flying over the area, they realized that the strange formations were actually symbols, visible only for the air.

There’s an important lesson here, I think, and as I dig into my WIP, I am realizing that the ground-view, page level vantage point isn’t going to cut the mustard.  I need to look at things from 35,000 feet.

In my playwrighting days, I had several tricks that I would deploy to evaluate and tweak structure.  For one, I’d place each scene on an index card, then lay all the index cards out on the floor and move them around to explore different structures to determine what works best.  This also sometimes helps to identify scenes that can be combined or cut.

I also sometimes write an outline or treatment which serves the same purpose: to ensure that each scene performs it’s function and fits into the larger inciting incident-rising action–climax–denouement framework.

What about you?  What do you do to get a strategic view of your WIP?