I’ve finished some major revisions to Book II of Tales of the Red Ranger. Doing this after writing 88,000 words was pretty pleasant. Things had started to slant off in a better direction than the original outline.
There were — for me — issues with the last few chapters.
I’ve read about folks who write from the outside moving inward. They have a beginning and an ending. The hard part is the stuff in the middle that moves the characters from where they started to where they end up.
I’ve also read about writers who have characters and follow them around, documenting the interesting things they do, and (somehow) shaping this into a coherent narrative. This seems much more intuitive and artistic. I also think it conceals a huge volume of skilled craftsmanship that gets lumped under “intuition.” Or something like that.
I have to be more methodical in my outlining. I have a pretty good idea where things should end. But. Things happen along the way. The real world intervenes. Something that seemed sensible when I started, turned into a kind of opaque plot hole. After a while, it’s a serious deficiency. Then it’s a roadblock.
Overcoming a roadblock means deleting some things and rethinking what the characters are willing to do. And starting the writing process again.
Sometimes, I think of myself as le Carré’s master spy, George Smiley: I’m giving the characters nudges and hints to go in a particular direction. A direction similar to what they’d prefer. The Earl of Westmarch is an opportunist… But which opportunity will he choose? I don’t feel like I’m dictating the choice. I’m setting out alternatives, confident of what he’ll choose. This works for established characters: people I know.
On the other hand — for the minor characters — they may have to make certain choices. Sometimes, they do it unwillingly, and that’s a tiny bit of drama. Other times they do it willingly, and they merely shepherd the drama along. Either way, I may need to replace one character with someone more willing to do the right thing for the overall story arc.
I’ve redrawn the dungeon. I’ve rewritten the outline for the last 60,000 words. Again.
And then I looked at Book III. Oh, dear. The next book's outline doesn’t match the events in Book II very well at all. First things first: let’s see how the characters survive the dungeon. And the things that come after that. Once we’ve gotten closer to the end, we can make final adjustments for Book III’s beginning. Consequences have consequences.