When I first got my critiques back for Darkfall, I knew I had an issue with the ending (no surprise there). My friend tossed out an idea to fix it that I knew instantly was the right move.
Mash the ending together.
In that early draft, there was Major Event A (ME-A) that set off the third act and climax of the book/series. It culminated at Major Event B (ME-B). Lots of stuff happened between those two points, but the tension and stakes never really rose after ME-A, so the ending didn't have the punch it needed.
But once I shoved ME-B on top of ME-A, well, then I had a whole new ballgame. An awesome ballgame, really, and my stakes went through the roof, the tension rose and the conflicts crashed so much better. ME-A was hard for my protag, but it became so much harder when Nya also had to deal with ME-B at the same time. And it also fixed an issue where it felt like the book ended, but then there was still all this other stuff to do.
If you're currently revising and staring at a bloated first draft (or even one that isn't quite working as you'd like), you might try seeing where you can pile scenes and events onto each other.
1. What events can be made harder if you combine them?
Look for scenes in which the goals might be similar, or the timing of events is close. Maybe the goal of one scene will cause more trouble or increase the difficulty of another in you introduce that second problem at the same time.They find out their husband cheated on them during a scene when they have to give a career-making speech.
2. How can you up the tension in each act?
From a more macro-level, are there any story arcs that can be deepened if you combine scenes in that act? Look at each act independently and see how combining scenes might make it more unpredictable. Give your protag more choices, make the choices themselves tougher, and it might be more unpredictable which choice is the right one. If both choices happened in the original draft and each had consequences and outcomes, what happens if the protag has to pick one over the other? What changes? All kinds of cool opportunities can come from this.
3. Where can you deepen the emotional conflicts?
Now it's time to examine the micro-level. Look for situations that tweak the emotions this time, not just the external goal-focused plots. If the protag faces an internal struggle in scene A, and an external struggle in scene B, what happens if they face both at the same time?
4. Where can you raise the personal stakes?
Bad things happening can be exciting, but it's the personal that really gets us. Look for scenes that are big and exciting, yet impersonal, and see how you might add a personal moment to it from elsewhere in the novel (maybe one of those "I need this but I'm worried its a boring scene" types). Themes can be helpful here, as a larger-than-life moment can mirror or symbolize a deeper internal issue.
Now, don't just mix things willy nilly. There has to be solid reasons to combine scenes that work for the story as a whole. But there's a lot of weaving that can be done and braiding those events together can make the book better as a whole. Like braiding a rope to make it stronger.
You never know where you can pile on the trouble until you look. You might discover two ho-hum scenes have major punch when combined.
Have you ever combined events or scenes? How did it work out? Are you currently facing a revision that could benefit from a little mashing up? If you've never thought about it, what scenes might go well together in your current WIP if you mashed them?
Looking for tips on revising your novel? Check out my book Revising Your Novel: First Draft to Finished Draft, a series of self-guided workshops that help you revise your manuscript into a finished novel. Still working on your idea? Then try my just-released Planning Your Novel Workbook.
A long-time fantasy reader, Janice Hardy always wondered about the darker side of healing. For her fantasy trilogy The Healing Wars, she tapped into her own dark side to create a world where healing was dangerous, and those with the best intentions often made the worst choices. Her novels include The Shifter, Blue Fire, and Darkfall from Balzer+Bray/Harper Collins. The Shifter, was chosen for the 2014 list of "Ten Books All Young Georgians Should Read" from the Georgia Center for the Book. It was also shortlisted for the Waterstones Children's Book Prize, and The Truman Award in 2011.
Janice is also the founder of Fiction University, a site dedicated to helping writers improve their craft. Her popular Foundations of Fiction series includes Planning Your Novel: Ideas and Structure, a self-guided workshop for planning or revising a novel, the companion Planning Your Novel Workbook, Revising Your Novel: First Draft to Finished Draft, and the upcoming Understanding Show Don't Tell (And Really Getting It).
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Indie Bound