Second chances are just that – a second chance. An opportunity to give it another try. It’s as close as we get in real life to a “do-over”, and if we’re lucky, we’ll get a few of them when it really matters. Most of the time, though, we don’t, because our initial choice caused a change that instead of providing us with a chance to do it over just gives us a new opportunity to wish for a do-over.
It’s called life.
And yeah, it’s a little scary.
Knowing that your choices have consequences is like the day you stand in your own house and realize that if you don’t clean the floor behind the toilet…nobody else will.
We learn to cope, for the most part, with the knowledge that this is our single go-round in life. But then…then we sit down at our keyboard and begin writing. We get swept along in the wave of imagination and grow giddy with the power of creation; we invoke lives on the page and hold their fate in the strokes of our fingers on the keys. This is POWER, this is AMAZING, this is…A CHANCE TO GO BACK AND FIX OUR MISTAKES! FINALLY!
Delete. Backspace. Delete.
There’s a place for that; it’s called editing. It’s an important part of the process…but here’s an important little tidbit that has taken me no less than two dozen half-finished stories to figure out: editing does NOT belong in your first draft. (Or your Nano novel, in this case.) The minute you start down that I’ll-just-go-back-and-fix-that-scene road, you will entangle yourself completely in word choices, plot holes and flawed dialogue. You will lose momentum.
More importantly, you will begin to doubt your story. And doubt will kill your Muse (or imagination or inspiration or what-have-you) faster than anything else.
But what do you do when you’re 19, 001 words into a story and realize that scene #3 – pages and pages ago – is WRONG? Not just a little wrong, but horribly wrong – it doesn’t fit your character, it will screw up your plot, it was a HORRIBLE mistake written at 10:41 pm when you should have been in bed anyway kind of wrong?
Panic is an acceptable option, as is raiding the chocolate stash, but as in real life neither is going to do a darn thing to solve your problem. What I propose is taking a clue from real life – treat your first draft as if you can’t go back. It is what it is – for now. Take your writer’s notebook and make a few notes about the scene you want to go back and change – what went wrong, how you’ll fix it, maybe even the page number or chapter location. Then put down your notebook, and keep writing your draft as if you’ve already fixed that scene.
There; the nagging worry is off your mind, your characters are back on the right track, and your word count hasn’t suffered from an accidental amputation in the throws of my-writing-sucks-let’s-just-delete-those-first-few-chapters-itis.
(Just don’t leave your notebook near the children’s crayon box…)