This is the post you hope to never have to write…
Rewind to the weeks leading up to November 1st, 2016. I was preparing to enter National Novel Writing Month with the outline of my fifth novel: Breaking Bread. I never have all the details worked out when I write, just character studies and a list of the major events that need to move the story from start to finish. This gives me, the writer, a lot of flexibility as the novel progresses.
Not every writer writes this way. There are “plotters” –who have all the entire story mapped out in exhaustive detail. There are “pantsers” — writers who “fly by the seat of their pants,” having only the major ideas of the story figured out. And of course there are all combinations of writers who fall in between. That would be me.
There is no right way to write. Whatever method works best for you, your style, your habits — it’s all good. Unless of course you are posting the novel to your blog for everyone to read… Which brings me to my problem. I have come to a point in the novel where I have changed my mind about how the story moves toward its climax. The new direction I want to go is in conflict with some details I wrote in previous chapters. In other words, I’ve painted myself into a corner. Nevertheless, I’m thrilled with the new idea and am determined to make it work. This isn’t the first, nor will it be the last time this happens.
I have two potential solutions:
- Keep going with the draft the way it is and find a reasonable explanation for the part that doesn’t make sense. This is the less acceptable solution in my opinion. It feels like cheating. And I think on some level the reader can tell that you switched gears halfway through. I’ve only done this on one occasion and was happy with the end result. If I were only writing this as a serial piece and not as the draft of a book for publication, I would choose this alternative.
- Return to the section of the story that interferes with the logical progression of the new idea and change it. This could be a major rewrite or it could be a matter of editing out a few strategic sentences or paragraphs. Sometimes even changing a few words can do the trick. This is all I will need to do to make my new plot point make sense.
The trouble is… I have already written and posted (and you have read) the part of the story I will need to change. It is entirely possible that I’m overthinking the importance of this particular incongruity and none of you will pay it any mind. However, that is the tangle that has prevented me from proceeding with the story. I feel like now that I have explained, I can move forward.
These are the issues you face in drafting the first version of your novel. Rewrites are inevitable and in this particular instance, when Breaking Bread is finished, it will give me an opportunity to explain how I edit and proof read. That was part of the reason for posting it all to the blog in the first place… to show the process from start to finish. So bear with me while I walk through the wet paint to the end.