This weekend I sat down for a writing session, intending to write and write and write until it was time to make dinner (which, for the record, was a clean-out-the-freezer extravaganza of dumplings, fish sticks, and chicken tenders; I was a heroine).
I started, but quickly found that wasn’t where I needed to be that day. Should I stick with the plan or pursue spontaneous inspiration?
I opted for Door Number Two and opened up a bunch of older files related to my current WIP. I cut and pasted the bits and pieces that had taught me something about my protagonist into a new version of the manuscript. I was guided, in part, by sagacious notes from my writers’ group, who are patient enough to take a truly fresh eye each time I say, “This is more of what you’ve seen, except that it’s really different.”
I also took into consideration who this character is the more I think about her. I think about her every day, but there’s still so much I don’t know—that I won’t know until I’ve written a draft, edited a jillion times, and then sent off to readers. And probably not even then.
I am attempting to tell the story of an older woman’s entire life, and having lived not yet half of what she has, it’s a challenge. But little by little, she is coming through. I will never know everything about her, which takes some of the pressure off. Readers will add their own interpretations, and she will continue to grow. For now, I have to get down everything I can, and then try to make some sense of it.
If you read through the eighty pages the document consists of right now, you’d be lost in conflicting logistics, gaps in time, and inconsistent descriptions. The pieces have a thread running through them that I am starting to recognize, but a whole lot needs to be cut, moved, and rewritten, before the real story emerges.
Despite the amount of work that entails, I found myself energized at the end of my session. I am another step closer to the truth of this story. I can make better decisions with all the good stuff before me, and hopefully some of the decisions will make themselves. I’m finding my way to the next step in the process. I’m moving forward even though when I get to deleting and end up with eight of the eighty pages, it will look like I’m moving backward.
Paraphrasing some good advice I’ve read recently, this is a story I can tell, and I have no choice but to tell it.