I’ve heard good things for a long time about a piece of software called Scrivener, which is not so much a traditional “word processor” as it is a writing project management system, useful for writing and organizing long projects like non-fiction books, novels, and screenplays. It sounded great, and all the cool kids were using it — but unlike the cool kids, I don’t have a Mac, so I haven’t been able to try it. But now, it’s finally available for Windows (in beta, at least), so I downloaded it this weekend and fired it up. The interface was a little intimidating at first, and the tutorial almost overwhelmingly long, but everything made perfect sense by the time I was done, and yeah, it looks really useful.
I’ve known for a while that this book needed a little love and attention before I ever let it see the light of day — basically, the first chapter or two is roughly the existing short story as written, with the rest of the book roughly bolted onto it. There were some fairly serious plot and stylistic mismatches between the beginning and the rest of the manuscript, and I was already planning on more or less throwing out those first two chapters and rewriting them from scratch. But, really, I thought the rest of the book needed a bit of revision and polishing, but was mostly ready to go.
…. Oh, man, this thing needs so much work.
Once I imported the whole thing into Scrivener and started breaking it apart into scenes, I realized that a lot of the scenes need to be drastically reworked. A lot of the description needs to be fleshed out a little, and some of the dialog needs to be rewritten into, uhhh, sentences that people might actually speak. Worst of all, there are many, many scenes that are more like outlines, sections where my protagonist just tells you what happened instead of the reader actually getting to see it. I can tell what I was trying to do — I was trying to give a sense that time was slipping by with the protagonist being only barely aware of it, which is thematically important, but, the end result just feels kind of rushed.
I suppose none of this should really surprise me. It turns out I wrote this thing nearly ten years ago — I hadn’t realized it had been that long — and really, I should hope I’m a better writer now at forty than I was at thirty.
On the bright side — and there is a bright side — the plot works even better than I remember. There were several twists and turns where I thought, “oh, right, that bit was clever,” so there’s no major restructuring that needs to be done. And while the dialog may make me wince in some of the scenes, there are other scenes where it just sings.
So this is still totally salvageable, and I’ve got some great ideas about some of the changes I want to make, and Scrivener is making the whole project seem a lot more manageable than it might have been otherwise. Maybe even fun. I’ll keep you posted.previous post: Saying No to Ninety-Nine | next post: Cover Yourself