Out of order

I …

I just got it.

The whole “you don’t have to write your story in chronological order” thing. I get it now.

This plan I’ve been working on for the past couple of weeks and freaking out over for the past couple of days has been stalling and staggering because I’m trying to plan things out in order. And there are just some part of it that get stuck, and when I try and untangle that mess I drive all of my energy and momentum into that task rather than continuing to plan. By the time I’m done, I’m exhausted mentally and don’t have anything left to give to the rest of the plan.

And what is the rest of the plan? Well, as I keep saying: the plan in my head is a collage, not a causal progression. It’s a bunch of scenes that I like, and I like their variations, and I like mixing and matching them with other scenes from other continuities without realising I’m doing it until later, when I realise that I don’t actually have a linear plan, because I don’t have a linear story that I actually want to tell.

So, using all of this evidence, I have come to the conclusion that the bits I get stuck on …

Can just fucking sit there and stay stuck for now.

And in the meantime, I’ll make plans for chapters that I want to “do up”, in the way that I want to “do them up” – even if it means breaking continuity within the overall story.

The plan I’ve been putting into action over the past few days/weeks is taking events that happen throughout the current working version of my story and recombining them – often in quite small ways, as it turns out. I’m fairly happy with the general gist of what happens in this story, up to a certain point. Which is great. Less work for me. The first part of my story is much more solid, much easier to get a handle on working how to improve, than the second and third parts, so that’s what I’ve been working on – and that’s where I’ve gotten up to and hit the wall.

Or been restrained from hitting the wall. I need to remember the metaphors I use.

But it seems now like I did actually hit the brick wall, and it was just as helpful of an experience as I wanted it to be.

What I have realised today is that the parts of the plan that have worked have been chapter revisions, not the total sum of chapter revisions amounting to a full manuscript revision. The parts of the plan that have worked have been the parts where I’ve done what I wanted to do, not the bits where I struggled with trying to do with what I thought I should do.

I know what chapters I want to revise for the first third of the story – so I do have a plan. It is a plan that excludes two-thirds of the book, but that doesn’t make it any less of a plan. If anything, that’s a very useful plan because its arcitecture makes it honest: I don’t know what the fuck to do with certain parts of my story, how to fix them, make them better, use them as joints in the story to help it move. That is the situation that I’m in, and being able to recognise that also enables me to see why this plan has been giving me so much grief.

And I had to go back and re-read one of my very first posts in order to get that perspective, one in which I confess that I can’t stand the idea of writing in a non-linear fashion. Funny how things change.

Never delete anything.

Just open a new document.

S0 – fantastic. I have a strategy as well as a plan now:

  • Continue constructing revisions for chapters, and don’t worry about getting every chapter in there.
  • Said revisions don’t have to link to each other – this isn’t a plan for the whole story: this is a plan for each individual chapter being revised in keeping with how I would like that individual chapter to play out. Fuck continuity for now.
  • By fucking said continuity, I will gain a clearer picture of which parts are in dire need of fixing: after completing these chapter revisions I will go back and read the whole thing as a complete story, and the jarring discontinuities should (theoretically) grab my attention and draw my focus to them.

And if this strategy changes? Then it changes. The point is that it’s there and I stand to gain something from it, even if it’s just to come up with a better plan. Much like what has happened today.

If you keep going, you can’t help but eventually end up somewhere.

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