We live in the digital age. My manuscript is stored in a folder on my hard drive. Every time I make a major change, excise a bunch of text I’ve previously written so that I can backtrack to an earlier point (this happened a lot between, say 2008 and August 2010), I save a new version of the file. So we start with SB_new-rev_01.rtf, then […]_02.rtf, etc.
There are seventeen versions in my backups folder.
None of them make it past Chapter 14. What happened?
The Haunted Freaking Forest.
The Haunted Forest is, I think, the low point in the original manuscript, the absolute nadir of lame-osity. It embarrassed me to read, and it embarrassed me to think about, and despite its containing some rather important foreshadowing and a major character introduction, I just wanted to skip over it and get on with the good stuff. I took three or four separate stabs at the rewrite before I got impatient and bored and decided some summary and some hand-waving were good enough, and we could move forward now.
BOY. WAS. I. WRONG.
I still can’t believe I was so dumb. Skip the major character intro? What was I going to do later, when she became important again? Toss in a chunk of exposition? Lame, lame, lame.
I am not one of those writers who can skip the boring bits and then go back later and fill them in. Even on a rewrite, where the boring bits already exist, if only in rough form. (Of course, there shouldn’t be any boring bits, should there? Not if one is doing one’s job right.) The haunted forest being incomplete and incorrect made it impossible for me to get one with the story.
(I think it has to do with character development, and the natural throughline of the story. Check out Patricia Wrede’s blog for more on this; I can’t scare up a specific post right now, but she seems to have a similar thing going on with her writing. Which makes me feel better about the way I flail about, since she’s, you know, a pro.)
I tried. Good Lord did I try! Versions 04 through 017 are me trying to move on with the story without going back to the haunted freaking forest. “No no no!” I said. “I hate the haunted forest! The haunted forest is lame (and I don’t know how to write it)! Can’t we just … move on?”
And then I got pregnant.