Sand of Bone is a different story today than when I first wrote it because I am a different person. The plot is the same, but it’s shaded and shaped in ways that alter the characters and their culture. Motivations are, I hope, better layered. The emotional attachments produce more diverse consequences. Characters’ decisions make more sense.
I was on the quick path to finishing it up when I got the news about Patricia’s sudden and irreversible decline. All progress stopped. I stumbled through writing nearly all the way to the end in June, then determined I needed an index card session to get everything in place.
My index card session involves putting the scene’s viewpoint character, location, and story-day on the top lines of a 3 x 5. Then I list out the scene’s key plot points, revelations, critical information, and so forth. Once I have a card for each scene, I spread them out, in order, on my dining table.
And that’s when the fun begins. I’ll move cards around, play with the order in which key pieces of information are revealed, check my timelines and locations for consistency, and visually “read” through the novel to get a better feel for its flow. When I’m happy with all of the above, I re-number the scenes, then put notes on the back of the cards on what I need to add, delete, or alter to make the new shape work.
Truly, I’ve tried to do this with electronic tools, but nothing lets me “see” the entire novel so well as my rows and columns of index cards. Nothing gives me the same creative support as walking around the table and physically manipulating cards. It’s a quirk, a habit, a gimmick, a whatever. It works.
Tonight I’ll get the final cards written up. Tomorrow I’ll cover the table with almost one hundred cards. I’m hoping to have the shape solidified by the afternoon. Revisions then become so much simpler for me.
What I wanted to have completed by the end of April will likely be done around the end of July. Late, yes. Better, yes. More of the story I want to tell today than the story I thought of a decade ago, oh yes.
And in the background, bits and pieces have been completed on The Drunkard, I’ve fleshed out pieces of the sequel to Chant so that I have a few complete scenes and (already) lots of index cards, and I’ve nearly finished three different non-fiction pieces that I want to complete and publish all at once in the fall.
But right now I must pick up the pens and the cards and get to work.
(Thankfully, today’s weather is damp so I’m not fretting about the house catching fire as fireworks arc over the fields. Nice to not have that distraction.)