PERFORMING TRIAGE ON YOUR NOVEL
The Oxford Dictionary defines the concept of triage as follows: The process of determining the most important people or things from amongst a large number that require attention. When a patient is rushed into the ER, they are assessed to determine the number and seriousness of their injuries. Now, if they broke a wrist as a result of falling after a heart attack, the heart attack is dealt with first. You wouldn't expect a doctor to attend to a headache while the patient bleeds to death.
Triage is an excellent way to tackle editing. So, which area of a novel needs attention first? Readers are discerning; if they can’t identify with your main character, they lose interest, and it doesn’t matter how exciting the plot, it’ll be a two dimensional cardboard story. So sort out your protagonist before anything else, because we know putting a book down is the easiest thing in the world.
In my previous novel, An Unstill Life, half-way through the second edit, I realized my protagonist was a bit of a wimp. I had created someone to whom events happened, and she was boring. So I sassed her up, making her more fiery and neurotic. After which she became a lot more interesting, and stopped haemorrhaging over my story.
Once you’ve sorted your character’s inner and outer conflicts (leave out either of these and you’ve lost an opportunity to involve the reader more deeply), you can move on to plot, setting and language. Readers invest in characters, and overcoming the challenges you present for them is what grips your reader.
I can’t believe I’ve reached ch. 24. It’s the climax, and my beleaguered heroine is willing to sacrifice herself - but will it be enough? By this coming weekend, I’ll have finished ch. 25, the conclusion, and the first edit.
I’m really chuffed with myself, but also experiencing a little sadness as I approach the closing stages of my heroine’s journey. There is still a rest period, the read through, and at least one or two more edits. I’m aware I have a certain amount of sensory additions to make; possibly more internal monologue, as I find a character who simply reacts to current events is thin on depth. But the reading will tell me if this aspect is lacking, or if I’ve burdened my lead character with endless irrelevant musings. The novel is not finished yet, but after this edit, there will definitely be a space in my internal landscape till I resume writing.
Pretty or ugly
Rich or poor, no difference -
Death’s equal in love
I’m still making some of these mistakes, but at least I can add them to the list!
I’m participating in the 100 Happy Days challenge, which I find a genuine mood lifter, so please check out my happy pics, and join me on Twitter: teagankearney@modhaiku
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To all story lovers out there, good reading, and to those of you who write, good writing.
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