Trusting Your Innards at 40,000 Feet

So there I was, gliding 40,000 words into my WIP when bam!  Nope, it wasn’t a bird hitting my rudder.  It was the realization that I didn’t have an external plot.  Okay, so to be fair, it’s not that I didn’t have one per se.  I did.  It just sucked big dinosaur eggs.  I’m a plotter by trade and that nagging little feeling I had when developing my GMC, character arcs and plot points, that the external plot was less than turgid (hee, hee)… well, I should have listened to it.  But instead, whether spurred by laziness or cowardace, I pushed forward.  For a while, all was going well.  Until I got to the dreaded middle.  I can’t exactly say it was sagging.  It just wasn’t defying gravity.  Not the way I envisioned at the teenage portion of my book.  But nevertheless, I muddled forward, still eager to convince myself what I was feeling and sensing could be fixed with a little tummy sucking.  I stumbled and staggered for a few thousand more words until I couldn’t lie anymore.  I was sagging.  And it wasn’t pretty.  At that point, I took a deep breath and looked in the mirror.  I had a few options.  I could muddle along, pretend nothing was sagging and continue to stuff my burgeoning girth into a dress that no longer fit.  Or I could opt for the Spanx route, throwing a few superficial plot twists in the hopes of hiding the bulges.  As I began to think of what contrived fiction I could toss onto my sagging body of work, I realized that at some point, if this thing were to ever get published, the Spanx would have to come off.  And there I’d be.  Spanxless, saggy and bulging.  What a pretty picture I would paint.

And so I began to think the unthinkable.  Re-write.  I reached out to a few folks to get their perspective.  Opinions differed.  Some suggested to move forward, finish and then edit.  Others thought starting over was prudent.  As I muddled my options, I realized that I couldn’t move forward.  It would be like buying a dreamy dress, four sizes too small, and vowing to go on a diet.  Been there.  Tried to do that.  Didn’t work.  But the thought of trashing all that work didn’t sit well either.  I still remember when I finally donated my dreamy dress.  It was painful.  It was only when I pulled away from Goodwill that I realized… duh!  I could have had it altered.  And so that’s what I decided to do; implement a few alterations.

I went back to the plotting board and this time, worked out all the knots I had lazily ignored.  The new (and hopefully) improved outline meant that yes, I would have to chuck some of the words.  Maybe even many.   But the innards were still there.  Story idea, theme and even the characters (although I have to admit, one of them got a facelift, complete with a new profession and motivating goal).   I just shaped the plot.  And you know what?  As I went back to zero word count, I didn’t feel sick.   And I didn’t feel like a gluttonous moron who should have known better than to ignore good nutrition and feast on the doughnuts of laziness.  I felt invigorated and eager to write.  I can’t say I’m thrilled to have discovered my sagginess at 40k.  Around 4k would have been better.  But at least it wasn’t 140k.  And I’m glad I didn’t take the easy way out by trying to put a wig on an armadillo.  Just like the proverbial pig in lipstick, I’d still have an armadillo.  Except now, it would probably be mad.  And saggy.

9 thoughts on “Trusting Your Innards at 40,000 Feet

  1. Good for you, Masha. This is a difficult decision, but I think I’m the end you’ll be glad you made it. 🙂

  2. OMG. Been there, done that, but oh my, its tough. I’m still there with stories I started writing years ago, and now that I have a better handle (or hopeful better handle:) on writing a book, I am learning to chuck words, re-plot, revise, and redo. However, it took a while for me to learn what you’ve learned, and yay you, but what I did was to keep writing like 100,000 words of going nowhere slow. Hopefully, I’m getting better. Anyway, thank you for your post and candor, and fearlessness. It’s never easy hitting that delete button.

  3. Thanks guys. Glad to know I’m not the only one. Even if it’s a sucky sisterhood to be in. But I do think it taught me a bunch of lessons.

  4. Masha, Masha, Masha…I bet you know what I’m going to say…

    I LOVE your writing.

    Putting a wig on an armadillo or comparing the tough job of writing, re-writing and editing to the world of Spanx…you my friend are a brilliant writer.


  5. Carlene, as always, you are a gem.
    Also, could you please send an email to the editor of a literary magazine who told me he didn’t bother reading past the first few paragraphs because it wasn’t worth it.. and that he’d be very surprised if my short story would ever get published? I’d be much obliged. 🙂

  6. You crack me up, Masha!!!
    I loved the part about the “teenage portion” of the book. Lol. How true! Obstinate, and full of trouble. That’s the middle.
    I’ve thrown many subplots into a book that didn’t have much conflict, and that sucks even more. I threw in a stalker that didn’t make a bit of sense just so I could feel like I completed the book. Then when I had to get him out of the book because it didn’t make a bit of sense, it was super hard work. I knew the stalker had to go, but then I had to rework all the scenes that mentioned the freaking stalker.
    Lesson? Don’t throw a bunch of crap at your story hoping something sticks because it’s going to be downright painful when you have to fix it.
    It’s a good thing you figured it out early on.
    Loved the spanx analogy! You’re so funny! And it’s so, so, soooo true.

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