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.