I've been reporting how much I'm writing in terms of hours, words, and chapters, but not so much what I'm writing or how. Today I find myself with both a comfortable block of time to work in, and some trepidation about this next scene I'm beginning, so I thought now would be a good time for a process post. Maybe it'll help me gather my thoughts for the day.
I've been making scene outlines for most scenes, cobbling together exercises from different books that have helped me in the past. I begin by making a page in my "Scene Tracker"; this is where I make note of: the day, time, and location of the scene; the characters involved; the dramatic action; the POV character's goal; the emotional development of the characters; and how the theme is advanced. This not only helps ensure the scene has a point, it also means I won't have to go back and make this scene-by-scene overview once the draft is done, because I'm making it as I go.
Then I do cut-to's, an exercise in which you zip through the action of the scene like video. If this was a movie, what would you need to show?
Next I make note of all little sense details I want to include.
Then I write out the dialogue with no action or attributives-- just the voices talking back and forth.
Then I cut and paste the whole thing together in the order I want it to go.
Then I write it, deleting the scene outline as I go.
It's basically building the scene layer by layer. There are a few scenes that are so clear in my head I don't need to do this, but for most I find it helps me to make more interesting choices, and does wonders for keeping all the elements that belong in a scene straight.
So now I'm on a scene in which two of my four main characters meet for the first time. Remember that this is the first book in a quartet; there is a primary main character for this book (Mary) who is the POV character in every scene she appears in. But there are also some scenes she isn't in, and the other three main characters each take their turns as POV character there. Each of them will also have a turn being the main character in the later books.
Another challenging thing about this book is that the romance element is a little weird. I've got four MC's, two men and two women. So I have 6 relationships to work out between them, and four of those wind up being sexual/romantic. Two of the male/female pairs have a more obvious connection and easier path, so laying down those threads has been easier. But now I've come to the moment where the most rocky relationship starts.
The scene is from Noelia's POV. She is meeting Leopold for the first time, and she just totally hates him. They're at a ball, and since Noelia's an unconventional young noblewoman making her debut in Society, she's being watched closely by her aunt to make sure she behaves herself. Leopold is not noble, but he's an Officer and a Gentleman from an obscenely wealthy family, and Noelia's aunt wants her to play nice with him.
There's a lot going on between them in a brief interaction. Neither Noelia nor Leopold are any good at being charming. Despite her position, Noelia is very clearly an Outsider, and is also a genius who doesn't suffer fools gladly. In my mind, Leopold is played by Jesse Eisenberg, and does that twitchy, arrogance-covering-insecurity thing when he feels uncomfortable. On top of that, there is some serious bad blood between his family and hers.
I want the first part of the conversation, while they're being watched by her aunt, to have that politely-despising-each-other ring to it. Then the aunt steps away to talk to someone else for a few minutes, and all pretense at politeness is dropped. I want her to come away thinking he's a complete putz, but also have him say something insightful that really gets under her skin-- something that later she'll decide is true, even if she doesn't attribute it to him by then.
I have the rest of the scene all worked out, and I'm psyched about all the cool details of the ball. Now I just need to get that dialogue written! I think I need to just be okay with it taking longer than usual.