One way to describe the difference between discovery drafts and truck drafts is that discovery drafts are “this happens and then this happens and this happens,” and truck drafts are “and this is what those things mean.” The way to do that isn’t by telling the reader what the stuff means; it’s by putting the action on the page in a way that leads the reader to interpret subconsciously what it means. Structure is one excellent way to communicate meaning. So this chunk of narrative is two scenes (one in Button’s PoV, one in Nita’s) in which they discuss the partnership and then find somebody waiting to kill Nita whom Button shoots, and two scenes where Nick talks to Dag and Rab and discusses the investigation and also finds out more about Dag. There’s nothing wrong with any of this except that Nita and Button’s conflict is resolved in the first scene, both of Nick’s scenes are chat not conflict, and there’s no relationship between Nita’s scenes and Nick’s scenes. Other than that, everything is fine. Argh.
Scene sequences are units of narrative that are just like scenes. While each scene in a scene sequence has to be complete in and of itself, it also has to fit into the meaning and structure of the sequence as a whole, just as the sequence has to fit into the meaning and structure of the act as a whole and the act has to fit into the meaning and structure of the novel as a whole. When you take two scene sequences and weave them together, moving back and forth between them, you’ve created another narrative unit: the double scene sequence, which as to work as a whole, too. Which is complicated. So the first thing I do is look at the structure I already have: The person who opens the narrative owns the narrative, and in this case it’s Nick. Except Nick’s scenes are low key and Nita gets the guy with the gun. Also this is Nita’s book and she should get this sequence; Nick can have the next one. So the first thing I do is put Nita first. But equally important is that Nita get the last word, so she needs to be last, too. So now we have this: Now Nita owns this narrative section. Next step: Figure out what each scene sequence means and how the scenes escalate to a climax. Nita’s sequence starts with Button in the car saying “We need to talk” and ends with Button saying, “Okay, I’m your partner.” She already did this in the first scene (which I can fix) but when she really needs to say it is the last scene in this sequence. In other words the events of this sequence have to be the start of the Nita/Button partnership brought about by the events of these three scenes. In scene one, Button expresses her doubts about the partnership but in the end tells Nita about the Lieutenant, establishing that she wants to play fair and not take sides. In scene two, Button shoots the guy trying to kill Nita. In scene three, Nita takes the rap for Button. Depending on how I revise it, that should show, not tell, the reader that these two are becoming partners because they both do things that are extreme to protect the other.
Nick’s sequence is a hella lot of infodump in the guise of plot: Dag and Rab tell Nick stuff and Nick gives orders. I’d have to fix that anyway, but since this is part of the larger narrative chunk, I need to make this parallel to or at least echo Nita’s scene sequence. The best way to do that is to show Nick’s relationship with Dag and Rab evolving through events the way Nita and Button’s partnership is evolving in their sequence. Nick’s never going to be partners with Dag and Rab, at least not in this act: He’s the Devil Elect and they’re his agents. But showing that the way he works with them changes can also show that he’s changing. The fact that he’s noticing emotions in Dag and Rab is a big clue that he’s developing empathy again; their surprise that he’s asking them not what they think but how they feel about things and the freedom that gives them to express themselves outside of agent talk shifts their relationships.
At the end of both of these sequences, the two teams should have evolved, not necessarily cementing the relationships but definitely foreshadowing that these two groups of people are going to stick together with their groups for reasons other than duty. But I’d like another relationship arced in this double sequence: the Nita and Nick relationship. They’re apart, which is frustrating for romance readers (still not sure this is a romance, but if it isn’t, the secondary plot is). I can’t put them together, but I can keep them thinking about each other.
For the Nick scenes, that’s easy: he’s investigating her. For the Nita scenes, it’s harder because she has other things on her mind, but I think he’d be in there–she just saw him as a skeleton, that’s gonna leave a mark–but the fact that she told him he was under suspicion and that she’d be back to question him should at least make her wonder if he hadn’t sent the shooter.
And then there are the transitions between the scenes, those little gray arrows in the diagram. Nita’s first scene ends when Button gets out of the car; Nick’s first scene begins (in this rewrite) when Dag comes into the apartment. The next Nita scene begins when Nita gets out of the car and follows Button, so I need something at the end of the Nick-vs-Dag scene that somehow sets that up. The second Nita scene ends when Nita takes the gun and shoots the corpse so that she can take the blame for it, and the second (and last) Nick scene is Rab coming in. If I shift Rab’s entrance to the end of the first Nick scene, I’ll have Nita getting out of the car and Rab coming in, which is weak but better than nothing. Then the third and last Nita scene is Mort coming in and the corpse disappearing. Nick’s second scene ends with Rab leaving, so that balances Mort coming in. I’m not sure that really works–most narratives start with somebody either coming in or leaving a stable situation so it’s pretty generic–but it does set up echoes, faint though they may be. And the fact that both sequences are working toward building teams also helps.
Edited to Add: I still haven’t fixed the transitions. Argh.
And then there are the character arcs. Button grows closer to Nita as Dag and Rab develop a more personal relationship with Nick. Nita gets hit with more proof of the supernatural and Nick gets hit with more proof of his humanity, and they both deny it. At the ends of their sequences, both Nita and Nick are more driven than ever to find out about each other, each seeing the other as the key to the investigation (they’re not wrong). That sets up the breakfast scene where Nick sits down at Nita’s table and she lets him: they’re both after information. So this narrative section is about evolving the teams (which will become one), developing the subtext of the Nita and Nick relationship, and showing the beginnings of the arc of Nita accepting the supernatural both without and within and Nick accepting the return of the natural in his life, both without and within. I think if I can do all of that (okay, I’ve done a lot of that, I haven’t been sitting here on my thumb all week), I can declare this in its truck draft stage and go on to the rewrite of the breakfast scene (in which I have already incorporated your feedback, so thank you very much for that). And then after that is the next double scene sequence which belongs to Nick, and that throws the act into its last sequence which is Nita and Nick together investigating something horrible while fighting both each other and the growing awareness that things aren’t what either of them assume, ending with the climax of the act where they both have to accept that their worlds just blew up. All the while keeping Nita and Nick alive on the page and the action moving and . . .
Writing is hard.
Edited to Add:
I still don’t have the Nick scenes right, they’re pretty much discovery drafts since I rewrote them almost completely, but I have to let them go for now and move on. Same for the transitions.