A Stitch in Time…

The first six chapters of my WIP were easy to write. I’m almost ashamed to admit how effortlessly the words poured onto the page. This is great, I thought. There was even a running shot at finishing NaNaWriMo.

And then chapter seven happened. I take a hybrid approach to the plotting versus pantsing thing. I don’t want to know too much about the details, especially in the beginning. I want the plot to unfold organically, with surprises, like in real life.

At some point though, an ending pops into my head and a few key scenes along the way. That’s when I put together a loose roadmap of the story, leaving the details to chance and the opportunity for real-life mishaps to naturally arise.

Somewhere in the writing of chapter seven, I hit a wall. I had a general idea of where to go, but the characters were floundering, going through the motions. I knew the story was meandering but I kept pushing myself, thinking that if I kept writing the magical ending would come to me and I could cut the weak parts later.

What happened instead was that I lost interest in the project. My husband is at this moment calling me a workaholic (in a totally supportive way) — and he’s right. I’m not a huge procrastinator. But I found myself wanting to do anything but write this story: read craft books, read books from my TBR list, watch my old faithful movies. Anything.

The writing was on the wall. I put the book on ice. And stewed. And ruminated. Until eventually the ending and key scenes came. It often happens during the shower. This time was no different.

Hooray! I thought. Now that I have my ending and direction, I can write through the crappy part and delete later. So I sat down to write. And procrastinated. And procrastinated some more. Now I was in unfamiliar territory. Why wasn’t it working in the same way it did last time? Maybe I hadn’t tried hard enough to push through. I sat down and tried to write some more. It was like wading through mud.

I contemplated shelving the whole thing, but it felt a shame to put off something that started so well. In a last ditch effort, I read up to the point where the story started to drift, and cut the story from that point. I saved it in a separate file, but from the story’s perspective, the words were gone.

The result was amazing. Looking at it from different angles, I took the story down another path — a fun, infinitely more interesting one. I even managed to use some backstory I cut from the first chapter and rewrite it in a breezy, whimsical way that fits the new direction as though it was always there.

I have to say, I’m super chuffed. I can’t believe I didn’t see it earlier. The answer probably seems so clear to everyone else and it was a few months coming for me. But I’m so glad I worked it out. And now I have a new tactic to try next time a WIP doesn’t play nice.

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Alison Whipp

Lawyer. Writes Middle Grade and YA. Known to cackle raucously at 13 y.o. boy-humour. Partial to baked goods of the sweet variety.
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