Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Ripple Effect


The discussion of revising and, particularly, of 'middles' seems to have struck a chord.

Why am I not surprised?

So I thought I would touch on the notion of the ripple effect which anyone who writes surely must be aware of. And if you're not, you need to be.

Ripples are what happen when you toss a rock in the water, yes? No rock, no ripples resulting. But the minute a rock lands -- or you make a change in a manuscript -- everything thereafter (and sometimes everything before) has to change as well.

Why?

Because everything is connected. Everything tends to result from something else and lead to something else.

Example: Anne Gracie said to me last week, "I'd rather see Demetrios convince Anny to come with him rather than have her just turn up on the boat."

Simple, yes. A new scene in which she turns up on the dock, says what she's come to say, then turns and leaves.

Why? Where's she going? Why?

And then he goes after her.

Why? (He must be out of his mind).

He convinces her.

Why?

He has his reasons.

Why?

Because of something that happened in his backstory.

Why did it happen?

Because that's the kind of guy he is, has always been.

And then presuming he succeeds, what then?

She didn't expect to be on a boat.

Now what?

And of course none of the 'now what' falls into what I've already written in chapters 5 and 6. So they have to be completely rewritten with new stuff that follows from the simple change in one scene.

So does the earlier stuff -- before the boat scene -- because otherwise it wouldn't have occurred to him to convince her. In fact, he isn't at all sure this is a good idea.

Sadly, I can't just simply write down, "Because Anne told me to."

If ripples aren't your thing, think about Stephen Covey's Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. In that book he talks about making small changes.

He says that if you just change a rocket's trajectory by one degree at lift-off, it will be thousands of miles away from where it would have been if you'd kept the original trajectory. For good or ill, one small change effects everything that comes after.

Yet another way of saying, "One thing leads to another." There's just no getting around it -- even in books.

So I'm off now to deal with my ripples. I have, however, had a bit of good news to go with it.

My editor is off to France for the week so I have now got until the 22nd to deal with all the ripples and make sense of this thing.

And how are your middles doing today?

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6 Comments:

Blogger Kate Walker said...

Ah yes - ripples - those things that when editors ask for 'tweaks' in one scene, you find are then sending out strands of effect into som many other bits of the book. I always think of it like knitting - or embrooidery, both of which I once used to do when I had time - BW - before writing.

A book is like a piece of complicated patterned knitting or embroidery with lots of different colours - but then you (or your editor) spot a couple of wrong stitches way back in the design. You have to go back unpick and redo those but you don't have exactly the same colour thread/wool any more so you have to use a different one - and then when you rework the rest of the design you have to change the pattern and incorporate this new colour so that it - and here's the tricky bit - so that it weaves inb throughout and looks as if it was part of the original pattern anyway.

One thing always does lead to another- that's so important. And nothing happens for no reason. Which is why I bore for England on the question 'why?'

'Tweaks' indeed - you might as well say that about tiny pull in a delicate stocking that then turns into a l-o-n-g run if you're not careful

Kate (who is intrigued to see that her word verification is coggs)

12 June, 2009  
Blogger Anne McAllister said...

Ah yes, Kate. Excellent analogy. I'm not a good knitter. I knit the way I plot, which is that I increase and increase and increase until There Is No Hope. (I fully expect Barbara Bretton, consummate knitter, to arrive now and slap my hand!)

But you're absolutely right. It all has to look right -- and effortless -- and as if it all 'belongs' together -- and always did, by the time you're done. Which is why I'm tearing my hair right now!

I always enjoy it when you bore for England on 'why' -- keep saying it. It's right!

Anne, whose word verification is 'gasple.' Hmmmm. Is that gospel by another writerly spelling, I wonder.

12 June, 2009  
Blogger Lacey Devlin said...

I wasn't aware of the ripple effect, not consciously anyway. I'm currently dealing with it though. I changed one thing and now I'm bouncing around trying to fix the rest of the ms. I can't decide whether it was more or less traumatic before I realised I'd done it to myself and can't REALLY blame it on the characters??

13 June, 2009  
Blogger Anne McAllister said...

Lacey, welcome to the ripples! I know the feeling. But yes, you can blame it on the characters, anyway. You can say that they should have told you the right things the first time and then you wouldn't have to be doing it over -- and making all the other changes you have to make.

There will come a time when you have put something in and taken it out so many times you have no idea whether it is in or out and, consequently, whether you should take other things out or put them back in!

13 June, 2009  
Blogger Steve Harper said...

Lacey I came across your BLOG this morning as my Google Alerts picked up on your use of The Ripple Effect. As an author of a book titled The Ripple Effect: Maximizing the Power of Relationships For Your Life and Business, I am always fascinated by others' perspective on the concept and how they are applying it for their own personal and professional lives. My Google Alerts often brings me to fascinating people like yourself that are out there spreading the word of Ripple and for that I am thankful!

Just had to say great post and glad to have found it! Most assuredly will become a regular reader of your BLOG!

Ripple On!!!

06 July, 2009  
Blogger Anne McAllister said...

Steve, Thanks for stopping by. There is certainly a 'ripple effect' in relationships. I'll have a look for your book.

Best,
Anne

10 July, 2009  

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