Runaway Words, Lost in Time

Last week I blogged about the writer’s checklist and posted a short form of what might keep an otherwise disorganized writing project on track. That was such a good idea. Too bad I didn’t take my own advice. As some of my friends know, I’m working on a sequel to Accidental Child, and I’ve been energized and relieved to know that a minimum of 500 words a day is a reasonable goal for me. The trouble is that I tend to write scenes as they occur to me, and some file names were tentatively numbered chapters, some were label with the names of the characters in the scene. Some were melded together as Part I and Part II. Soon I had a mess on my hands. There was text stored on a USB stick, on Dropbox and in print. Add to this my decision to use three main characters and to develop scenes that could be interleaved. Chronology had become a Paleolithic concept.

Truth: not knowing in what order the three should eventually march and losing track of the timeline of one if I wandered off to write about another, my words were all runaways, the manuscript playing digital hide and seek, a naughty day-care crowd of characters not mature enough for me to look away. One of them would scamper away while I chased another. They refused to line up at naptime. I have no one to blame but myself.

Consequence: I lost several days of writing new material in order to make order of this mess. I’ve erased the very concept of chapters in favor of descriptive slug lines in the header on every page. I filed the paper versions chronologically in a binder, sectioned for each of the three main POVs, and backed up the new files on both Dropbox and the USB stick. Whew! I still have to review the manuscript as it now stands and see where I need to add material to make a story worth reading. That will still happen in daily chunks but with more attention to where each chunk gets filed. Spontaneity has been reined in. Onward!

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