In which things fall apart but come out all right

I’m sitting here surrounded by boxes and the contents of our kitchen, as our kitchen is part-way through renovation. (Kitchen of Doom, as I have dubbed it, although in all seriousness it appears to be going very smoothly and will be lovely when finished.)

It got me thinking about workmanship, and that part of writing which is getting down to it, doing the work, and fixing it if everything goes wrong. Not that the kitchen has gone wrong. But it is currently stripped back as far as it can possibly go. Pipes and wires and holes in the floor stripped back.

Everything went wrong with the WIP. Well, sort of. And not actually everything. It was one of those moments, 25k words in when you go “oooooh, those characters don’t work like that. They’ll work like this.”  But getting them to work like “this” means going right back to the beginning. Yes, from almost a third of the way into the book. As in back to 2k words right at the beginning. It sounds like the end of the world, doesn’t it?

But actually, strangely (and writers’ brains, as you probably know, are very strange places), it turned out to be a MASSIVE relief. When I tell people they look at me as if I’m about to cry and they’ll need to get out a mop and bucket, and maybe find some sedatives. It probably disturbs them more therefore when I laugh, kind of manically, and any “no! It’s brilliant! I couldn’t be happier!”

Because I know what’s up with the main characters now. Their conflict is right there for me. I know its source, I know their emotions, and I finally know where we’re going.

That 23k isn’t lost. I’ll still be able to do something with it, use parts of it etc. Since I made this change I’ve gone from eeking out 500k wordcounts to 1400k the other day. It’s exhilerating.

Which brings me back to workmanship (by a roundabout route). If the basic underlying structure of something isn’t right, you’ve got to strip it right back to the foundations and start again. Even if it hurts. Even if there’s such a long way back to go.

It’s so SO much better in the end.

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