In Depth is going absolutely wonderfully. I had my third official meeting with my mentor on Wednesday, February 20 from 4:00pm – 5:15pm. In this meeting, I incorporated the sections of “How to Listen” and “Questions” from Edward de Bono’s “How to Have a Beautiful Mind”. After showing and explaining my completed and edited Save the Cat plot points and my one sentence story summary to my mentor, we talked about the next steps of writing a novel. I asked my mentor about first drafts, edits, and opening lines, thinking those were the next steps in writing a novel. My mentor explained how there are a few more steps, but also took the time to answer my questions about ‘how do you find the opening line of a story?’ ‘how do you write without getting distracted by edits?’, and ‘how do you edit a draft?’.
I learned that to find the opening line, you need to first write the opening scene and establish what you want to engage your reader with. Starting with the description of the scene is typically not a good idea, and my mentor suggested using action or going right into the head of your character to start a novel. Upon further asking for clarification on why, my mentor explained how the hook not only pulls in your reader but sets the scene; most authors actually avoid prologues because they don’t focus on your character. To direct quote my mentor, “The character should drive the plot, not the other way around.” This was a strange new point of view for me as I love using prologues to introduce the world, and I use them as a good hook. I explained my side of the view, and we compromised a joint view on a prologue that is set directly in the action that impacts the story that avoids an excess amount of exposition.
My mentor also explained how writing drafts (in her opinion) work. The strategy she uses is extremely useful and efficient, and I am starting to implement it in my draft writing. The trick is to force yourself to write a complete first draft of your novel without going back to edit. Once that is complete, you go back and do an edited draft for grammer and sentence structure, followed by a draft that fixes plot holes. Then you go back through a character lens and check the consistency of your characters after you’ve gotten to know them (ie. if they would say a certain thing), and then keep doing edits, cuts, additions, and peer edits until you are satisfied. My mentor and I modified it slightly for In Depth, choosing to take on sections from the plot points at a time instead.
My homework from this meeting is to write down and answer the developmental questions of my story. Developmental questions are plot points or areas of plot holes, and explain ‘why can’t this happen now?’, ‘what is affecting this to happen now?’, ‘what causes this?’, and anything involving timing or needs explanation. Simply saying ‘because of the prophecy’, for example, isn’t enough. You need to answer ‘but why does the prophecy affect this’, and so forth. This clears up any complicated points and smooths out your story, and makes it easier to avoid plot holes later in story writing and development. My other bit of homework is to write the first drafts of my ‘Opening Scene’, and collect my favourite opening lines from other novels to share with my mentor.
My next meeting is on Wednesday, March 6 from 4:00pm – 5:00pm. I am extremely excited to continue this project with my mentor.