At some point in every book, I have to step back and say, “Okay, what the hell is this book about?” Not “What is the plot of this book?” but “What ties everything in this book together?” And that’s what I did last night until I looked up and saw that it was 6:48 AM. I’m a little groggy. Plus, you know, the Drowning Jesus burned. But here’s what I did.
First I made a scene list. Usually I have about sixty to sixty-five scenes but this time I have forty. I may add one or two extra ones, but that’s about right since this book is about two-thirds as long as my third-person novels.
Then I went through and did a beat breakdown for each one, trying to figure out what each scene was about. As usual, for a lot of them there was no there there. Yet. I’ll have to dig into each one and figure out where the focus is, but I can do that.
Then I did a logline for each one:
1. Liz vs. Vince: She’s trying to get out of town but he stops her for speeding.
2. Liz vs. Patsy: She’s trying to get out of town but Patsy insists she stay; Willie backs her up with warnings about the car.
3. Liz vs. Molly: She’s trying to get out of town, but Molly convinces her to stay the night with diner food and the promise of a night at the local bar, just like old times.
4. Liz vs. Patsy/Anemone: She’s trying to get some work done, but Patsy sends the Porters to convince her to stay for the wedding, intercut with Anemone calling to tell her to leave (“Come to Chicago.”) Everybody wants a piece of her.
5. Liz vs. Mom: She’s trying to be a good daughter, but Mom lays the guilt on her. (Okay, she’s not trying that hard.)
6. Liz vs. ML: She’s trying to escape from family, but Aunt ML really lays the guilt on her.
7. Liz vs. Molly: Molly fills her in on what she’s missed. [ Weak scene; will probably get cut.]
8. Liz vs. Lavender: She’s trying to move the fitting along with so she can get to the bar, but Lavender is obsessing on details, micro-managing, fighting with her mom. (Conflict needs refocused on Liz.)
9. Liz vs. Vince: She’s trying to catch up with Molly so she can leave the next day, but he’s making her have second thoughts.
And so on. Liz’s goal throughout the book is to get the hell out of Birney. I’m good with that. It’s keeping the main plot and all the subplots hanging on that, spurred by that, complicated by that, that’s taking the time. Also her conflict has to deepen in each scene; that is, she just wants to get out of Birney in the first scene, but by the third one she should be having conflicting thought–it would be nice to spend some time with Molly, what could one night hurt?–and so on. Otherwise, the whole book is too one note.
Writing novels. Argh.