Started re-reading, as per my intentions. Every time I set out to read my own work, I try to approach it as it is on the page, rather than how it is in my head. It’s not easy. When it works, there’s often a lot of fluctuation and stop-starting as I try to remind myself what I’m trying to do and get myself back on-track.
This time while I was reading it, I realised something that begs questions of me. I realised that this story, as it is on the page, is not the story that I started missing when I started re-writing a week or two ago. It’s actually nothing like the story that I want to tell. I mean the key events seem to be the same, but the story is just … I almost don’t recognise it.
I’ve gotten so attached to the story in my head, incomplete as it is, and so invested in the idea, or perhaps delusion, that this same story is the one contained in the printed words of my manuscript, that I’ve never fully seen the inconsistency until now.
Which means that, technically, my rewriting was not me missing my story as it’s written. It was missing the story that I haven’t written.
Now, to be fair, what I was re-writing was not that story either, so I guess it does make sense that I freaked out. But thinking that the story I wrote was the same as the one I want to have written (a first draft of it anyway) got me confused. And thus, my conclusion is that a fairly thorough rewrite wouldn’t actually be the worst thing in the world – in fact, it may well be the best thing in the world. I just need to rewrite it properly.
I need to actually figure out what the hell the story in my head is, from start to finish, and then write that.
Seems simple enough.
It always seems simple enough.
We’ve all had the experience – recurring experience – of not being able to properly articulate in writing the story we have in our heads. And it’s because once you put something in writing, once you take thoughts and turn them into something external from yourself, they’re no longer yours in the same way that a thought is; they’re not longer part of you, but your environment, and we interact with our thoughts and our environment very differently.
I don’t know how this insight helps me, exactly, but knowing is half the battle or whatever. My conclusion at the moment is that I’ll keep reading and sketching out plans (I like the current plan I’ve got, but then again I like planning for its own sake), and then by the end of it hopefully have a script that I will stick to – moving from pantsing to planning, and just trusting that the plan will work. And by “work” I mean “provide me with an environmental object that I can interact with and, though said interaction, gain insight that will inform my future decisions in the revision process”.
I don’t mind this story not being what I have in my head, because the story in my head has changed and multiplied, like a Hydra going from infancy to adolescence and now attempting to find its footing in adulthood, balancing all of its many heads. The many heads of this story are all still in my head, and each time I try to cut one off it just sprouts another iteration of itself. The story in my head is not consistent, is what I’m saying; it’s ideal, yes, but it’s not an ideal: it’s a constellation of idealised options, and that is what I need to get my head around.
That is why you have to actually write.
Because unless you do, it’ll all just be options. No wonder I can’t pin down the core essence of this story; “this story” doesn’t fucking exist. It’s starting to, though; I’m getting a good feeling about the direction I want to go in now, and while I know I can and will have other ideas, I think that natural or not, this has to be the stopping-point. After this next revision, unless I just fall off the wagon completely or there’s a major plot-hole or whatever, that’s it. The rest of the writing process will be editing, not rewriting. This next revision is going to be The Story, for better or for worse, because dear fucking hellhorses I need to finish this thing. I can’t just tell this story forever. I don’t want to, and it doesn’t want me to either.
The first time I wrote a zero draft of a novel, it was totally planned out from start to finish, and I stuck to it.
Time to prove I can do it again.