Usually I write like a shark – always moving forward, never stopping. To stop would be death. If in the beginning of the story a character has blond hair, and half way through I decide she’s a brunet, I just start writing about her luscious dark locks. I never go back until the first draft is done. Only then do I allow myself to review, nit-pick and obsess until I can’t see straight.
But this project is different in that it is just so much longer than anything I’ve done before. I got distracted. I broke my own rule. I (eeep) went back.
At page 140ish, with my protagonist fully into a grand adventure, I decided my story needed to start earlier. Way earlier. I jumped back about forty years to figure out her family history. It seemed to me that this was vital to understanding my character. I was wrong. And what’s more, I completely derailed the forward momentum I had gained with my main character.
What’s more than that, the few things I did learn about my character enticed me to go back into the pages I had already written and start chopping. A few days later I had a butchered manuscript that I had hacked down to under 100 pages and filled with bulleted notes about what needed to be edited. And that’s when I realized what I was doing: editing.
What the hell was I thinking, trying to edit a story that was only half done? All it did was stress me out, and make me feel like the whole endeavor was so pointless that I might as well quit right now. I had turned myself from a shark into a lobster (and for those of you who may not know – lobsters can only swim backward.)
I didn’t know what to do. Every time I opened the doc on my computer I honestly didn’t know where to start. My head was all wrapped up in the first half of my story, I needed to keep moving the main character forward, but I had dug myself in deep.
I decided to go back to basics. Using a stack of note cards I began outlining the scenes of my story. I made little notes of the revisions I didn’t want to forget, and forced myself to push through the whole story as I knew it, to the very end. Then I picked up the card that signified the point in the story where I jumped away. I stacked up all the cards that came before it and put them in a safe place. With that magical card I have managed to refocus myself. Anything that belongs on a card that comes before that one will just have to wait until I finish a first draft and start in on revisions.
There will be no more going back. Never. Ever. (Cue the “Jaws” theme music.)