A Behind The Scenes Look: Editing BECOMING BONNIE

This week, the Deb’s are chatting about the editing of our novels.

As writers, we pick up tricks of the trade as we go along. We never stop learning and improving. I like that about our industry. While revising my novel, BECOMING BONNIE, I felt like I had ample opportunities to grow (i.e. it required lots of editing). But it was in that messy, chaotic state of tackling my edits that I stumbled upon a new trick that helped me tremendously. I created chapter summaries.

Here’s how the trick came about. My editor’s notes were amazing, but required tucking and trimming and the moving of scenes and the writing of new scenes. I started to get wobbly eyes, trying to remember the order and the nuances of my ever-evolving storyline. To help myself—and to also give my editor a birds-eye view of my edits once I lobbed it back to her—I wrote chapter summaries, with the inclusion of notes depicting my character’s, Bonnie Parker’s (of Bonnie and Clyde), state of mind. She evolves from a doll to a gangster’s moll throughout my story, and I wanted to make sure I got it right.

Here’s an example a chapter summary:

Chapter 1: Sunday/August 1927

Scene 1: At home, Bonn readies herself for church, struggling with her hair. Roy, her long-term boyfriend, shows up. He’s antsy and nervous, with something to say. He’s also holding an envelope that he found in the bushes and that steal’s Bonn’s attention. The envelope turns out to be a final notice from the electric company.

Scene 2: Bonn sings at church. After the service, Roy reveals what he wanted to talk about prior to church: he proposes marriages, using one of his infamous sketches, this one of their future wedding scene. Bonn is taken aback and worried being Mrs. Roy Thornton will get in the way of her dreams, but Bonn agrees after Roy assures her they won’t get married until she’s ready.

Bonn’s state of mind:

  • Bonn has a Mason jar filled with Roy’s sketches. On the outside, she wrote a line (But I, being poor, have only my dreams.) to inspire herself to be more than that line; she’ll have dreams and riches.
  • Women can vote; women are equals, wanting to make a name for themselves. I’m no exception.
  • Bonnelyn Parker is going to be somebody. Wherever life takes me, whatever final notice stands in my way, my daddy will look down on me and smile, knowing I ain’t struggling, I’m thriving. I’m more than poor.
  • Bonn is blindsided, yet flattered, by Roy’s proposal, but hopeful that, with Roy, she can still reach her goals

Having all my chapters written out in bite-size pieces allowed me to easily look back, without having to skim through thousands of words, to make sure my plot and characters were progressing the way they should as I revised. Sure, creating summaries is an extra step and it took some time, but it was a game changer for me.

So much so, that when I began drafting BEING BONNIE—the sequel to BECOMING BONNIE—I implemented the same technique, but this time summarizing as I go along. While the summaries were a great #amediting tool for the first book, it’s become a great #amwriting technique for the second 🙂

p.s. BECOMING BONNIE releases SO soon, on May 9th, 2017!

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Jenni L. Walsh spent her early years ​chasing around cats, dogs, and chickens in Philadelphia's countryside, before dividing time between a soccer field and a classroom at Villanova University. She put her marketing degree to good use as an advertising copywriter, zip-code hopping with her husband to DC, NYC, NJ, and not surprisingly, back to Philly. There, Jenni's passion for words continued, adding author to her resume. She now balances her laptop with a kid on each hip, and a four-legged child at her feet. BECOMING BONNIE (Tor Forge/Macmillan, 5/9/2017) is her debut novel that tells the untold story of how church-going Bonnelyn Parker becomes half of the infamous Bonnie and Clyde duo during the 1920s. SIDE BY SIDE, telling Bonnie and Clyde's crime spree story, will be released in the summer of 2018. Please learn more about Jenni's books at jennilwalsh.com.