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Arcana Revision Hell: Preparation

Dig a little deeper in the Well, boys
Dig a little deeper in the Well.
If you want a good cool drink of water
You gotta dig a little deeper in the Well.

One thing I remember really struggling with as a beginning writer was “deepening” a story.  What did that mean, exactly?  I had a story in my head.  It was “the” story.  I didn’t know how to change it.  If I changed it, then it was a NEW story, wasn’t it?  If the character wanted to be different, wouldn’t he/she have shown up in my head that way?

I’ve been deepening Arcana and its characters today.  Gregar has been bellowing that song above in my ear all night.  Deeper, dig deeper, ask why, make this WORSE.  In many ways it’s like the tip of the iceberg.  What I know or see is so little compared to the details that lie beneath the surface.  I don’t necessarily need all those details on page, but knowing them adds a whole different dimension to this story.

I have to say, I have NEVER been so prepared to start a story.  The scary thing:  I’m not quite finished with these preparations yet, either.  I modified 5 character sheets tonight and realized I need to create a new one or I’ll end up with another cardboard secondary character.  (Yes, I was originally going to kill this character, how’d you know?  Now this character is sticking around indefinitely for me to torture.)  I’ve got a map of my castle drawn, but I’ve decided it needs a history.  This castle should have its own personality on page, very much a “character.”  This story could not be set anywhere else, and I need to reflect that down to the finest detail.

The character sheets are incredible.  They really are.  Why did I forget I had this template thingie?  It combines every little thing I’ve picked up over the years that help me get to the heart of my characters.  I’m not talking favorite colors and eye color here (although if there’s something important in physical description, I do have a spot for that) — I’m talking greatest fear, darkest secret, why the hero and heroine should NOT be together, etc.  I have paragraphs or more backstory for each character.  I have meticulous historical dates where needed.

It’s crazy.  Why isn’t this story written yet?  Oh, yeah, I covered that whole fear aspect already.

And even though I have a NINETY-SEVEN-PAGE OUTLINE (boggles), I’ve already gone through with pencil once and added details, then started another pass with a few new angles I thought of.  I’ve added a few scenes — bringing the list up to around 100 scenes.  It should be a nice meaty book when I’m done.  I’m going to make a third pass through the outline with character sheets in hand to make sure I cover scenes where the characters’ fears and secrets should come out or affect the emotions.  Heck, I might even make a fourth pass just for EMOTION. 

Then I’ll type up everything, print out fresh copies, and be ready to go on May 1st.

The biggest changes so far have been making things worse.  More people die or pay some cost to achieve what they want.  The cast is a little bigger — and the overall themes are more complex than I originally envisioned, which are all good.  I have something more to say than I originally thought.  The general theme is balance vs. chaos and how the various characters all reflect different degrees — but there’s another new subtle layer underneath that just came to me today.  I definitely want to spend some time ensuring that shadowing exists in the outline.

More importantly, though, I eliminated some of the “fluff” elements.  This is a flaw of mine.  When I originally thought “Regency Fantasy” with a little “Romance,” I let a few standard tropes creep into the story, especially the ending.  Tonight, I axed every single one.  My heroine is going to be a bit subversive.  Her sister is excessively subversive, but she will pay a steep price for that independence.  I’ve done my research to the best of my ability, so I understand the consequences.  I think.  :wink:


There is a “Regency Romance” buried beneath the magic and fantasy, but it’s not going to end with a wedding, baby, and title, if you know what I mean.

Dig a little deeper in the Well.

4 thoughts on “Arcana Revision Hell: Preparation

  1. Wow, Joely!! This sounds like a special book! What template do you use? I’m thinking I need to do an outline before I get too much farther into act II. I think it might help me have less revising to do. *G*

  2. The length of your outline just about kills me. I thought my two page outline was sufficient, but now I wonder. 😛

  3. Ninety-seven pages???? Holy guacamole. I am in awe. Sounds like fun.

  4. Jess, I hope the template helps (it’s one I created myself). If anyone else wants to see it, feel free to drop me a note.

    Krista, I *know*. It’s killing me too. Plus the first draft, which is 50K. How can I not write this story?

    Rene, I don’t usually have such a detailed outline. One page for each section/scene, so it’s not 97 SOLID pages, but still, I was stunned when I printed the thing out! I’d forgotten how long it was.

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