If you’re anything like me, there is a time during the writing when you just need to go for it. Set your better judgment aside (not too far away) and try something different.
Leaps of faith. The wind to which caution is thrown.
Sometimes the experiment works, sometimes it doesn’t. It is a sometimes-surprising-sometimes-disastrous exercise. The moment in which you find yourself glad and grateful that we are not laboring away letter by letter like Medieval copyists or on IBM Selectrics like Madmen-era copywriters.
I’m trying it now, the fiddlings, the experiments.
One instance involved a character’s backward/forward memories. I tried to present-tense those thoughts, to create an immediacy that would, I hoped, make the shifts clearer. Annnnnnnnnnd, no.
The other example is the merging of two chapters into one to streamline the plot and keep the story moving. This avenue seems more promising. I was worried that I would have to lose a chapter tie-off that I love, that is important to the characters’ emotional growth, but not so. This one may be a keeper.
Being a writer fascinated with the process of others, I’ll share mine: Chapters in rewrite get their own folders, clearly labeled. Sections that are to be worked over experimentally are copied into their own files. Something insane that I want to try is given the same name as the section, plus a version designation. That way I can keep intact the mojo of the earlier version and go crazy-ass on the new one. The original stays put in the full manuscript until I’m satisfied with the changes…then the reworked version is copied into place and the original extracted, labeled and added to “Notes” for that chapter.
The emotional process is a bit different. When it comes to writing, I am, I admit, a packrat. A hoarder. Nothing is thrown away. Ever. The saving is proof against the faltering attention of low-energy “what was I thinking?” days. Keeping everything is an insurance policy. Trying to figure out what the hell I’ve kept is something else altogether. I live in terror of having to go back and dig something out from deep in the pile.
As a writer consumed with forward motion, I remind myself constantly that, at worst, the taken risk is a day wasted. At best, it can be something magnificent.
So just for the helluvit, do something nuts. Something unexpected. Something experimental and wildly not you.
Caution. Sometimes, you’ve just got to throw it. And isn’t that what the wind is there for?