Way back before Christmas, I purchased The Fire In Fiction by Donald Maass. I had intended to read it before now, but ya know things just got in the way. Anyway I finally started it this weekend and I'm about halfway through now. Can I just say that I'm loving this book! I've learned so much from the first part and I'm itching to finish it. Being the nerd that I am, I keep highlighter pens with me and highlight sentences or sections that I want to remember. And if there's something I really really really want to remember, I'll copy them down in my writing notebook. (I know, you don't have to tell me how weird that is).
One of the things I love about the book is that Maass uses tons of examples from literature to illustrate his points. I've always been one to learn by seeing how others do things, so this really helps me to crystallize the concepts in my mind. If I find a particularly good example, I draw a star next to it. (I did this kind of stuff in my college years. Don't know why, but it helps me when I want to remember something).
But there's one problem. When I hit the chapter about Scenes That Can't Be Cut I had one of those "Aha" moments. See, there was two key points that Maass made in this section that stood out:
1. Every scene needs two turning points - an outer turning point (or what actually happens to change your pov character) and an inner turning point (what the pov character learns and/or realizes).
2. You should identify your goals for each scene and make sure every element in every scene in some way makes the goals more likely or more remote.
Ya'll, it was like a light bulb clicked on in my head. All I could think was Have I been doing this so far in my WIP? I couldn't get this out of my head. And on Sunday I decided I couldn't write any new words until I knew for sure (I'm a little obsessive-compulsive about stuff like this). So I got out my notebook and proceeded to write a one page summary of each chapter I have completed so far. Then I tried to identify my goals for each section and the two turning points. Folks, let me tell you this took for-ev-er. Like about three hours to finish. Well, I do have three kids who like my attention:)
But in the end, it was sooooo worth it. I discovered that I was on the right path for some chapters, but I have A LOT to fix. I even remembered I had a character at the beginning of my ms who I haven't even mentioned again. Got to decide if I'm gonna bring her back in some way or just delete her. Then there's the whole info-dump, backstory riddled chapter 1. *turns bright red and cringes* By doing this exercise, I found a few places in which I could sprinkle that backstory to make things more interesting. Now I'm fighting the urge to go back and fix all of those things. I'm afraid if I do that then I'll never finish the first draft. *bangs head against desk*
So for now I'm going to *try* to resist the urge to edit and move forward. Yes, I know I have a lot of crap to fix, but I know it can be done. And the good thing is that I can use these two key points to make sure I do a better job of writing the last half of my WIP.
Alright people, here's the questions. How do you know if you're on the right track in your WIP? Do you use these key points to help you when writing? Do you have any writing resources or tips you would like to share?