In 2009, I attended Darcy Pattison’s Novel Revision Retreat. One of the many things she encouraged us to do while working with our manuscript was to check for “emotional zig-zags” within our first hundred lines. This technique Darcy developed after having a manuscript rejected for characters who felt “too flat”. She determined she’d change her manuscript so that each description carried emotional weight and used Libba Bray’s A GREAT AND TERRIBLE BEAUTY as a way to teach herself how to accomplish this (go read the first chapter if you haven’t before. It’s wonderfully done).
I was working on another manuscript at the time but came home to MAY B., the book I’d recently finished and had just sent out to agents. I decided I should look for the emotional changes within MAY and set up a chart, poem by poem, marking the topic and emotion in each. Unbeknownst to me, it was my first book map.
I first learned the term “book mapping” write reading Scholastic editor Cheryl Klein’s book, SECOND SIGHT: AN EDITOR’S TALKS OF WRITING, REVISING AND PUBLISHING BOOKS FOR CHILDREN AND YOUNG ADULTS. A book map is simply a quick way to get an overview of an entire book, scene by scene. It can be plugged into an elaborate chart, showing things like point of view, setting, conflict, character growth, and “emotional zig-zags”, as Darcy would say, or can be a simple list with a few words meant to remind an author (or editor) of various points along a story’s path.
Faith E. Hough says
I’ve read about book maps before (In SECOND SIGHT, primarily) and mapped things out in my head a bit, but never tried to write one out. I should probably try, huh? It’s so neat to see how it worked into your creating.
I’ve never done a book map, but when I wrote my novel in verse, I kept track of the story by summarizing each day’s progress (what I had written that day) on one or two lines at the back of my journal. I find it easier to write verse in longhand. Then, once my draft was done and it had been left alone for a while, I typed it all up and inserted comments as needed to give me an idea of what needed to change when I did revisions. Mapping sounds like something I might want to try with my current WIP, which is not in verse.
Have you been reading my mind? I SO needed this post today. Thank you, as always, for your thoughtful insights and the gracious way you share them. Have a great weekend!
I did one for my recent finished book. I color coded it, using a different color for each plot/subplot. Really helped me see where some things hadn’t been mentioned in too long.
Caroline Starr Rose says
I’ve been off on a writing retreat. So lovely to come home to this great discussion!
Joanne R. Fritz says
This is fascinating. And you know, I have a copy of SECOND SIGHT on my craft bookshelf, and I have yet to open it. Really need to get to that… But I have to say I love what you said here: “I promise the seed of what you need is already there.” I’m pretty sure Kirby Larson said something similar but I can’t find the interview where she said it. She said something like “everything you need for your novel is in your rough draft.” That’s good to know.