Structural Integrity at 73%

Philip HarrisThe Ghost Smuggler, WritingLeave a Comment

On Thursday afternoon I pulled up The Ghost Smuggler and started the revision process. I’m starting with a high level look at the overall structure, looking for holes, ripping out the weak parts and adding more conflict, more plot and anything else I can think of that will make it a better book.

I’m experimenting with Scrivener at the moment so I’ll be using it for the second draft. It will be a good test but I’m also starting to really like the way Scrivener lets me jump around, view multiple parts of the manuscript and generally work more efficiently. The only downside is that I will only be able to work at my main PC, no sitting on the bed with my Chromebook. Still, I don’t like editing on a laptop anyway.

To kick things off, I needed to move my full manuscript from Word into Scrivener. If you’re not familiar with Scrivener, basically it breaks a novel/story/script into chunks that you can manage individually. It makes it easier to move around the document, reorder scenes etc. In my case I went with one ‘chunk’ per chapter but it could easily be one per scene.

Scrivener imports Word docs and has a couple of options to clean up any formatting errors. I was able to split the manuscript up into chapters automatically but for some reason the paragraph indents were messed up so I had to fix that by hand. I also wanted to write a synopsis of each chapter, for a couple of reasons:

Firstly, Scrivener has a handy corkboard view that shows little ‘cards’ with the synopsis for each chunk of your project. Secondly, and more importantly, it gave me the opportunity to reacquaint myself with the entire story. And boy, did I find some issues.

It took me about three and a half hours to move the manuscript into Scrivener and create all the summaries so that I could start working on the overall structure of the novel. It was pretty tedious but definitely a worthwhile investment. By the time I finished I’d reminded myself of the plot of the book and already made some notes on things to fix.

As an experiment, I then printed out all of Scrivener’s synopsis cards and laid the entire story out on our lounge floor:

cardsThen, I wandered around the lounge, looking through the cards and reading out the story aloud as I made notes on things to fix, sections that needed expanding and areas that just felt ‘weak’.

I could have done the same thing on screen but slicing up all the cards didn’t take too long (we have a paper trimmer) and it was good to see the whole book laid out in one go.

Since then I’ve been iterating over the Scrivener doc adding and removing chapters and tweaking the synopsis for any chapters that are staying but need revising. I also snuck in a quick rewrite of the second chapter because it was bugging me so much.

Today, I finished the structural work (for now at least) and it’s definitely on the way to being a much better book. It’s also a much smaller manuscript now. About 27% smaller in fact. Some of that will come back as I go through the second draft but some of it is gone forever. It won’t be missed.

[Structural Integrity at 73% by Philip Harris first appeared on Solitary Mindset on 5th January 2014]


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