“25 Ways To Unfuck Your Story:” Perhaps one of the best-timed essays over on terribleminds since I started reading the blog in September of last year, I’d spent the majority of February wondering how I’d take the thing apart and make it sing.
…here I go again with the mixed metaphors. Oh well. Bugger it.
The first draft of Genesis—the actual first draft of Genesis—was pretty thoroughly fucked. That was why I took a hammer to it, busted it up, and harvested only the parts that worked. The rest didn’t see the light of day until yesterday, and that was just to do a side-by-side comparison. Bits and pieces of it made sense—but that was exactly the problem. Bits and pieces of it made sense, but only when you took them as bits and pieces, disassociating them from the whole. That’s fine in short stories, but in something that was planned to be a novel-length undertaking, that just won’t do. Nope.
After that was put together again, the story could progress. Of course, being a first draft, there are serious problems that I didn’t bother immediately to fix…
Please don’t look at me like that. This makes perfect sense.
Why this makes sense:
Suppose you have a draft coming up. You’re editing as you go, and putting things together bit by bit as you go. Suddenly, once you’ve finished, you realize a change that you made somewhere around page—oh, let’s say 53—totally conflicts with the information you’ve provided on page 82. In the spirit of bringing together things as fast as possible, you’ve managed to create a big, yawning plot hole. Once you notice it, you patch it up and soldier on—except that by page 134, you notice that the facts established originally on page 53 work better than the solder-job that you’ve done to mesh it with the hole on 82.
The lesson’s simple enough, but took me this long to learn:
Finish, then edit. Don’t edit as you go. (That’s how my first first draft wound up a total mess and I had to brick it.)
Otherwise, as Mr. Fox would put it, you wind up with a real clustercuss. Especially if you’ve spent the entire time in the document that you started with, which leads to the second Lesson Learned™:
Backup everything. Seriously, once you finish, backup your drafts. If you’re as paranoid as I am, then backup your backups. Which connects to Lesson Learned™ number three:
TRACK ALL OF THE CHANGES. Yet another lesson learned from terribleminds. Honestly, I’ve learned more practical writing tricks there than I did in school.
Now, it’s time to backup my backup and get started.