I completed the first draft of my current project which is a contemporary romance based on Sophocles’ Antigone (without the live burial and triple suicide). I started knowing I would need a minimum of 16 scenes, but it grew to 27 scenes and 28,000 words. Obviously, some of the scenes are short as the average is just over 1,000 words per scene. Because I am writing scenes that represent various elements/components of fiction through time, some of the scenes don’t need to have much in them. For example, Stasimon Four (scene 18) is the chorus giving three mythical stories that could explain Antigone’s motivation so that scene is only 500 words whereas scene 24 combines three elements including the climax so that scene is about 2,500 words. Now it’s time for the first pass of edits. I figure there will be at least two more passes after this one so I’m not feeling pressure to fix everything (and I’m still figuring out parts of the story) – that pressure will come with the deadline when they’re still not all fixed.
I have collected several tips, tricks, cheat sheets, and checklists that are helpful. Justine’s post from Tuesday, which you can find here, is an excellent reminder for another thing I have to make sure is on the page: GMC. A problem I see in making all the scenes conform to modern fiction standards/expectations is that some of the scenes from Sophocles’ Antigone don’t have conflict. Most of those are the Stasimons (like the one I referenced above). They are the “dear reader” moments in Greek tragedy – the point in the play when the chorus tells the audience the backstory, the hidden motivation for the characters actions, ties the action to similar actions, or points out the anagorisis or hartia. In the words of R. W. B. Burton, it is the “traditional element in Greek tragedy [that] strikes modern taste as its strangest and least intelligible feature” (Arnott, 1989).
What do I consider first pass editing? The first thing I did was read the whole thing start to finish without attempting to fix anything. I made very brief notes on things that jumped out at me so that I didn’t lose any of the threads of the story. Now I am going scene by scene and “fixing” them. Here are some of the things I consider when I’m editing at this phase. The first thing I look at is a list of questions that came from the McDaniel classes. These can be found here. Here are some other things I use:
- Desmond Morris’s Stages of Intimacy (good post about this on Jenny Hansen’s blog found here).
- Conflict boxes from the Writewell Academy 103 Conflict Workbook (which unfortunately I couldn’t find this on the net to share).
- Pixar Story Rules (googling with get you these).
- Martha Alderson’s 7 Essential Elements of Scene (Jane Friedman has a good post found here).
- Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat (here’s that website).
I don’t use all of these on every scene, but if I read it and there is a glaring error that one of these can help me with, I pull it out and apply it to that scene. Do you have edit reminders that you use? How many edit passes do you usually give a story before you are finished with it?