I took a break from composing the outline for Mermaid Story to incorporate information from the critiques on Black Hole Son. I'm not sure why I took this break - I wasn't particularly exhausted from idea generation, and I wasn't stuck on anything. I just took a break to take a break, I guess.
It was fun coming back to the BHS world... at first. Some of the critiques were harsh, some unnecessarily mean, some completely unhelpful, some no longer relevant. But for the most part, it helped me with the story. It's always important to get an outsider's perspective for stories.
One of the two hardest parts is seeing the harsh truth that there is a character doing something out of character. For example, portrayals of a police officer or police station are not believable because they're doing things that contradict expected behavior. At this point, you can do either one of two things - change the plot to reflect the proper behavior, which is hard to do, or do some hand-waving to explain the behavior away. Hand-waving is the lazier way out, but it's often necessary, because your plot depends on a character acting this way. Luckily, my story takes place in the future, so I can change just about anything to make the behavior work. Also, the less hand-waving you do, the better the story you have.
The other thing is seeing that you have a ton of scenes that do not move the plot forward and do not have a purpose. Probably, I should have been clued in when my first draft was 160,000 words, but who can really say? What can you do about this? Well, if this was another novel, they'd be easier to eliminate, but I've got two concurrent storylines going at the same time, and sometimes nothing happens in one while something happens in another. I can take another look at them and see if I can eliminate any, but I've already scrutinized each character's timeline for cohesion and accuracy. I guess I can try doing it again, but...
What this new revelation has done to me is make me heavily scrutinize each scene I've created for Mermaid Story and make sure each scene has a purpose and each scene moves the plot forward. It's gotten to the point where I have a section describing each scene's purpose and how it moves the plot forward. The hard part is telling whether or not I've accomplished this. Some scenes have a lot of characterization, which comes more into play in the end. Some scenes are there for breaks and pacing, but they don't exist in a vacuum. I feel like if I remove them, parts that occur later on won't make sense or won't be as impactful. Maybe that's the way to tell whether you're just wool-gathering or preaching. But who knows.
My goal with this story is to try and fix the mistakes I made with the last one. I'm trying to make every scene have a point and move the plot forward. That's always been a problem with me. I want to put scenes in because I want to be preachy, or characterize, or slow down the pacing. I can't do that in this next one.