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.