It’s been a few weeks now, I’m 30,000+ words in, and… the plot bunnies have come to eat me. It was going to happen inevitably – figuring out my story as it went along would always mean fixing a plot hole ahead would open another, far more cavernous one behind me. But it is somewhat demoralising to realise that you are pretty much going to rewrite the 30k you spent the last few weeks ploughing through. But I will not be quelled by plot holes and gaping inconsistencies! So here I am, navigating the First Draft Blues. It was a pretty sweet feeling when I hit 30,000 words in a cafe last weekend. Unfortunately being surrounded by people/civilisation meant I was unable to do a victory lap and demand the finest tea in all the land (but I did get a free top-up of my chai tea, so it wasn’t all a lost cause!). I had waded carefully through one plot hole, kindly revealed to me by the previous day’s long walk, and was on the cusp of a Major Event in the story. I went home, refueled on important things like food and daydreaming, wrote another 500 words… and then stared blankly at my laptop.
I had just written myself into a plot hole of such cavernous proportions, I could barely see the light at the top of it. I may as well have climbed down an oubliette and left myself to rot. There’s nothing quite like a character saying things to another character that you are sure you can weasel out of, then realise all hope is lost and actually your wise old character has just proved a very good point and you really ought to listen to them. So naturally, I wrote down the error in my Problems Notebook and carried blithely on. But my characters would not listen.
And then I saw the ladder out of the oubliette, a shaft of light bearing down on my draft and saying “Look! A solution! Listen and all your problems will be solved!”. Now as far as solutions go, it’s pretty good. It irons out other minor inconsistencies and problems I had neatly skipped over earlier, and should lead to the rest of the story being more cohesive and actually making sense. But it is somewhat depressing to realise that this particular solution is so critical to the story that I will have to do a complete rewrite. But this is a first draft! I tell myself. First drafts are designed to be awful! The only purpose of a first draft is to figure out the story, using as many real words as possible, and then you will rewrite it into a sensible blob and then you will turn the blob, very slowly, into something beautiful. Wise words, past me. What the wise words did not tell me, however, was how to cope with the enormous sense of failure. My Inner Editor quickly pounced on this opportunity and ran riot in my brain. START AGAIN, it screamed. FIX THIS NOW, it demanded, making me rue the split second I accidentally let it out of its cage.
The only thing I find you can do in a situation like this is walk away. I spent three days away from my story; I was still thinking and daydreaming and imagining, but not writing down. And there was still a sense of apprehension there. I worried that as soon as I go back to the draft, that I would be overwhelmed by my Inner Editor running rampant once again. But under no circumstances should I redraft! This is the thing that has always tripped me up when I’m writing, and I’m sure it’s tripped up many of you too: rewriting so many times to make it perfect, and then never finishing the stupid thing! I have only ever finished one novel beginning to end, and that was for NaNoWriMo. It was a hideously written, badly plotted, two-dimensional exercise in writing – but it was finished.
So that’s my writing resolution for this week. Keep on at it, write more story, and ignore the diabolically cavernous plot hole behind you. And if you’re at the same stage with your draft – well then I recommend that you do too!