Scene 1, Chapter 1, “ACTION”, Take 2


A possum and a movie camera 1943

Image by Australian War Memorial collection via Flickr

I have been rehearsing the first few scenes of my novel in my head this week. I decided I needed a break from the actual writing of the WIP to allow for the critique to marinade in my mind for a bit. After attending my first conference, I came away feeling refreshed and challenged. However, I also started looking at my WIP properly and realised that I needed to take a step back to be able to see it clearly.

One of the speakers at the conference was the talented Chris Vogler. Chris works in two mediums, story-telling and movies. Chris gave an inspiring talk on inspiration. A lot of his workshop though was an equal blend of movie talk and writing talk. This got me thinking. If I looked at my WIP with the eyes of a director, would I be happy with my scenes or would I need to do a couple more takes? This fresh perspective has allowed me to critique my novel from a removed space.

So, thinking like a film director, I began:

Scene 1, Chapter 1, “ACTION”

Cutting and editing a WIP is necessary to get to the fresh new branches needed for blossoms. Prior to the conference, we had been told to submit the first two pages of our WIP for a cold read and critique. Looking at the first two pages of my WIP, it struck me that I was “explaining” the story rather than “telling” the story. So I experimented with cutting the first 2 chapters of my WIP and making the third chapter the starting point. All of a sudden, I had action and movement with the first few words of the story. I decided to submit the edited WIP from the third chapter to see what reaction I would get in the cold read. The editor liked the language of the story and her interest was piqued, however I was “explaining” too much. At first, I was annoyed with this critique. Did she not know that I had already cut – very painfully I may add – the first two chapters of this WIP? Now I needed to cut more?! Again, I reminded myself to take a step back. I did not cut anything else from my WIP. Over the next few workshops, I let the critique from the cold read marinade in my mind. I started adding info from all the workshops into the critique.

I have now taken a week off from the actual “writing” and “cutting” of my WIP. This week has been a week of “cooking”. I needed to turn all the info and critiques from the conference into some sort of stew that would make a gourmet meal out of my very basic meal of a novel. At the same time, I have been using the editing part of my brain and been critiquing a WIP from my critique partner.

Now I sit here, one week after the conference, with fresh eyes and ready fingers. I am brought back again to looking at my WIP with the eyes of a director viewing a scene. I realise that, annoyed as I was initially by the cold read and subsequent critique, the editor was correct. I was “explaining” too much. I was not giving the reader the benefit of the doubt and was actually “dumbing down” the WIP.

Epiphany • a moment of sudden revelation or insight.

It was also during one of the workshops that I had an epiphany. It was not my first epiphany of the conference and it would not be my last. I have realised that in my fantasy WIP I was spending too much time “explaining” because I was trying to build my world for the reader. There was a key ingredient I was overlooking. It would mean a complete restart but it would give me the bones of this story with ACTION rather than BACKSTORY through EXPLANATION. To tell the story of my 2 MCs, I needed to start with the conflict that created their world. So this brings me to “TAKE 2”.

So I do not need to throw out what I have already written but I realise that I have enough story here for 2 – 3 stories. I was trying to fit too much into one WIP. I also realised that I was starting with story 2 and that I needed to start with story 1. So now it is time for TAKE 2.

Before I begin TAKE 2, I am going to remember the first words called out at the first filming of a scene: “ACTION”. I need to start with ACTION. I need to give the reader the benefit of the doubt. I also need to keep the reader/viewer hooked with a little teasing. I realised I do not need to explain the story away with too much backstory. Backstory has its place but for the beginning ACTION is key.

Time to begin: Scene 1, Chapter 1, “ACTION”, “CUT”, “Take 2″…

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Food for thought….

What is your editing/cutting method?

If your WIP was a film, would it have people on the edge of their seats or would it leave them yawning and frustrated?

Have you done a cold read of your own WIP as if it was another writer’s WIP?

© All rights reserved Kim Koning

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10 Comments

  1. Great post Kim 🙂
    Love your epiphany – can’t wait to read your new work. So excited for you!
    The world you described to me at the conference was phenomenal. Looking forward to seeing your characters surviving in it.

  2. i agree…action is key and you can create the world along the way adding layers as you go…

    you linked up to one shot…wondering if i am missing a poem somewhere…let me know as i would love to read it…

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