Writing Tip: A Bird’s Eye View

Birds Eye ViewThe manuscript I’m currently writing is a bit of a mess. I have a lot of story and not a very clear notion of how it all fits together.

This also means that I have a lot of scenes. I’m not entirely sure how they fit together either. And I am not referring to some overall sense of the book at large. I’m talking about a very nuts-and-bolts sense of how the various plot points intersect.

I’m constantly asking myself questions that I can’t remember the answers to.

Has Frank met Lucy yet?

Did Lloyd tell Baron about the trap door?

How long ago did the Spaghetti Conversation take place?

Where the hell did I leave that character again?

I often get lost while looking over a large story using a word processor. There’s little sense of where you are in the story. A scene might be eight pages back or three pages forward or only in your head and not actually written down yet.

A great way to sort this confusion out and take a different view of your story is to go through and jot down, scene by scene, what has taken place. Just list out the things you’re trying to keep straight in a list. No need to go into more detail than you need (I’m sure you know yourself which details you’re having trouble keeping track of).

Each line is a new scene, or for longer scenes, a new moment of import.

Then end result will be something like this:

Bird's Eye View of Story

 

Granted your handwriting won’t look like my insane pen scratches, and for some reason I always use legal pads when doing this, but the final product is a compact, zoomed-out view of your story. From here it’s remarkably easy to move things around. You can edit, swap scenes, and, possibly most important, you can cut extraneous moments.

And since everything is in order as it occurs in your computer document, it’s easy to then go through scene by scene and implement the changes you have made.

A completely different view of your story can make a giant snarled mess seem manageable, and will help you figure out exactly what goes where.

Now.

Seriously.

Where the hell did I leave that character?