Monday, March 10, 2014

Alphabet Soup



As part of his pre-school, mini-Engineer (aka Truck Boy) was filling out Valentine’s day cards for his classmates. He loved doing it and insisted on writing all their names himself. I noticed that while he could make all the letters  and knew what letters where in which name, getting them in the right order was a completely different problem. 

He’d start in the right place but if he ran out of room, or if he just wanted to, he would continue the name under the first couple letters, or above, or in front of. Because there was that nice empty margin to fill up. Upon occasion the letters could be scattered around in no order whatsoever.  Alphabet soup. 

It reminded me of a few of my early novels. They were a collection of scenes thrown together with no overall plot arc, no through line, and no rising tension. Just as my son needs to put the letters in the right order for them to make a name, I needed to learn to organize my scenes. First thing that should be done after finishing the draft and letting it sit for a little is give it a read and just look for the over all plot structure. Is the conflict set up at the beginning of the book resolved at the end? Is there growth and movement throughout the book, or is it just someone reacting to things thrown at him. 

If the scenes don't line up like the letters in a name then you probably have a problem. I just finished a structure draft of my current WIP. I’m super excited to see how this is coming together, and I can’t wait to move on to language, polishing, and really making my book shine.  I’m even looking forward to checking the grammar.  

Have you ever written an alphabet soup book? 

23 comments:

  1. This is a helpful metaphor, Sara. I'm learning that even when the structure is there, we still may be asked to alter it a bit in order to add some spice to the soup--even if we have a taste for something a bit more mild ...

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    1. I have the same problem. People are always telling me to spice things up. But I will always be a character writer.

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  2. Go, Sara, Go! It sound like you're fired up and ready to straighten out the "letters". ;-)

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  3. Yes, I've had a mess that required cutting and chapter switches because it didn't match the plot alphabet. And great that your son can write out his valentines.

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  4. PSH yes. My first novel was a very big bowl of ABC soup. ;)

    Nice analogy, btw. Much luck with the WIP!

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  5. My books always feel like messes, but somehow they come together eventually in the revision process. I wonder if Scrivener would help?

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    1. A lot of novels start out that way. The revision process is so important.

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  6. That's the perfect visual for some of the things I've written and read. What a great way to think about it!

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  7. I haven't written that many books, but I can tell you I've certainly written alphabet soup chapters. Even drafts for some of my blog posts have been alphabet soup-like!

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    1. Ah, character alphabet soup. I'm still working on character motivation through a novel.

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  8. Each time we write, we learn. Love this, Sara.

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  9. Fun comparison to writing a novel. They should make those Valentine's bigger!

    I agree, polishing is the best part of writing. That's when we get our wordsmithing on. :)

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  10. I have never written any book before but reading other authors blogs, it looks like a lot of fun.

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  11. That's a great comparison. My favorite part is catching the letters on a spoon and shoving them together to make words, which fits well with the editing.

    Glad you have such a good feel with your MS. It makes polishing that much more fun. :) You hate grammar that much, huh?

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  12. Not quite that bad, but yes, I've written a disorganized story. It was epic fun too. Rewriting it to other people's taste? Not so fun. I suggest all writers learn basic plot structuring so they can balance the process while moving forward.

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  13. I agree. I love the work involved after that first draft. But that reminds me that I'm still not finished my current WIP. Gads, it seems to be taking forever. Maybe I'm just getting lazy.

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  14. Yes, this happens to me. Not too often, but I do have those days!

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  15. I love this comparison! I've written far too many alphabet soup pieces, but I think (or at least hope) that I've improved.

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  16. What a good feeling it is to invest your time into a project and feel the excitement of a vision come to fruition. Yay you!

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  17. Ah! Too many alphabet soups in my drawer!

    Great comparison :)

    Nas

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  18. LOL That sounds like my ms that I'm editing for my editor. I only realized that after I moved things around (and had a write a bunch of new chapters). Now my alphabet soup spells something a lot more compelling. :)

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  19. Love the analogy of an alphabet soup book! And I'm really excited at how far you've gotten in yours :-)
    I think the only one I ever had was Rosa's story - I changed her opening so many times, moving scenes and cutting scenes and wondering what to keep, that it felt like stirring a stew (to keep up your analogy!)!

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