One of the rules of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month – just in case some of you missed it) is that you aren’t supposed to edit as you go. If you just sort of make it up as you go the way that I do, you frequently run into a moment when you realize something about your plot that you need to go back and add so it doesn’t come off as cheesy. For example in my NaNoNovel this year, I’m about 3/4 of the way through the plot and all of sudden I noticed that the side effect of being a telepath is that you can hear when the gods are influencing people’s thoughts. Yeah, the character has been a telepath from the beginning so there should have been some hint of that before now. Maybe, just maybe, I was brilliant enough to hint at it without noticing. Not likely which means I’ll have to go back and add it in. But that’s editing and you aren’t supposed to do that. Aaaack, what’s a writer to do?
I’ll tell you a secret, some of us go back and put it in. As long as it’s new words they still count toward the goal and there’s nothing in the rules that say you have to write in chronological order. Others of us ignore that no editing rule and edit to our hearts content – but that makes reaching the goal hard. There aren’t really any other consequences. It’s not like there are NaNoWriMo police roaming the world looking for writers editing when they should be writing.
There is however a much more common, and simpler approach to this kind of problem. In our region we refer to it as “That’s A December Problem.” By which we mean that editing can happen starting in December. What we do – after throwing our hands in the air and complaining about what our characters have done to us now – is write a note in the margin or set off within the document itself depending on what program we are using to write (and how desperate we are for words), then we declare it a December Problem and get back to writing as though we’d fixed the problem. Which is exactly what I did with my telepath. I put a note in the side bar of the chapter where I noticed it.
Then of course I noticed that if she could hear the gods then the gods were probably involved in the story. Only I didn’t set up the pantheons because I didn’t anticipate that the gods were involved. So another margin note to “develop the pantheons, pick the god who’s messing with history at this time and make sure that it is talked about early.” Not so bad, now I can just move ahead with place holder names for the gods and pretend like I already knew about it.
Earlier on, I had a bit of a conundrum in that my MC was plucked from another world as the closest person capable of doing what the bad guy wanted. Then about 4 chapters in, he goes and randomly hires another assassin to do what he wanted the MC to do. The only reason the assassin failed was that MC was there and still pissed enough at the bad guy to get in his way. Well that just didn’t make any sense, so there was a note in the margin to fix that. Well guess what – gods being involved solves that little problem.
When I get to December, I’m going to have a lot of notes to look over and figure out which ones cancel out. But that is also a December Problem.
Hope all of you writers are getting good words this month, whether you participate in NaNoWriMo or not.