My novel is nearing its final act (or, at least, its final third). My characters are so real to me that I expect to meet them in the corner shop, and my story is rattling on.
So, why do I still wake up in the middle of the night, scrambling for a pen, with plot complications rattling around my head? I’m still afraid that, despite all the planning and preparation, all the notebooks filled with scribbled plot, the amount of trees that have come to a screaming end to form the post-it notes that I’ve used in my attempts to write this beast, that the whole thing just doesn’t work? I’m hoping it’s just nerves. I’ve put so much thought into this that I can’t let it fail now. I owe it to these characters not to leave them, half-formed, floating around in the ether. They deserve a story to live in, and they’ll get one – a finished one, that is.
I’m wondering if it’s better to just tell my story the way I’ve currently planned it – warts and all – and then go back, once the grand, orchestral denouement has begun to fade, and fill in the bits that didn’t really work, or try to re-think any problem areas now, as I go. I’ve already done one major rewrite (and it gave me the mumps!), so doing another doesn’t appeal. Sometimes, I think if you edit as you go you end up borrowing problems for yourself, by which I mean something you thought you’d sorted out then becomes an issue later on down the line. Of course, for me, the things I wanted to change during the major rewrite were so substantial that I couldn’t have continued without fixing them, but if the changes aren’t as serious as that, I think carrying on, and then fixing it afterwards, is better.
Everywhere I look, I’m seeing information and advice from other authors, and some of it is extremely useful. It’s all well-meaning and done in a spirit of collegial helpfulness, and it’s wonderful to have it. But it can’t compare with what you learn as you write – everyone’s path to a finished piece of work is different. I hope anyone who might come across this rather rambling reflection will take away two nuggets of wisdom from it, which are: ‘everyone struggles at certain points’, and ‘whatever way it works for you, go with it’. It helps to have put a lot of thought into your plotting – and, even more importantly, into your characters – so that you can change the layout of the story if you need to, and your characters (if you know them well enough) can effortlessly inhabit any new story-scape you may need to put them into. But it’s not the end of the world if you need to rewrite some bits, or get rid of something that you particularly liked, or completely change a character’s personality. It happens.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, my heroine has been stuck in a scene where she’s suffering terrible motion sickness for several hours now. I must go and rescue her. Adieu!