At this point in NaNo, if you’ve been pushing ahead constantly, there’s probably a scene you’re not happy with. It’s become a bit like a scab, something that itches and you know you shouldn’t pick at, but you really want to because it’ll bring some relief. The best advice for NaNo is to keep moving forward and come back to this scene after you’re done. However, if you find you cannot make yourself do that, here’s some things you can do.
1) Make bare minimum changes
This is the quick and dirty method of dealing with a problem scene. If you’re unhappy with it, you probably know why, and you probably know what you want to do to fix it. So go to it, and make the absolute minimum changes you need to make. Feel a particular character was too rude? Go back and rework their dialogue exactly once. Don’t like the way you described the enemy stronghold? Make some quick changes to make it more imposing.
The trick to this is not to dawdle on the scene. You’re going to rush in, make some changes, and rush back out before you get sucked into editing. You want to make sure you keep your forward momentum as you write it. The 50,000 words by November 30th deadline still looms. You do not want to end up finding yourself wasting days revising and miss out on that. The end result should be that the problem scene isn’t irritating you the way it used to. It’s not perfect, not even close, but it’s been changed enough where you can push forward.
Sometimes, though, the scene requires major changes before you can push forward. If that’s the case, you’ll want to…
2) Outline what you’ll do
If you try to rewrite an entire scene, you’re going to slow down. If you don’t fix the problem scene, you’re going to go crazy. This is the middle ground – take some time to outline how you’re going to rewrite the scene. You can check out last Wednesday’s post for some advice about how to handle the outlining, or use whatever method you normally do. It’s much, much quicker than rewriting an entire scene, but at least you’ll know what happens here now, which could be crucial to moving forward.
The outlining also has a secondary advantage – it means you’ll know, now, that you can fix that part. Even though it might not be done, even though there might be a ton of work left to do, at least you now have confidence in what you’re going to do. You know that you can fix it, and have thus conquered and annoying little doubts that you won’t be able to finish the job. You can now move ahead with confidence, assured that when it’s time to do a full edit on the book, you’re ready and eager to get it done.
Sometimes, though, this might not be enough. Maybe you need to see how the characters develop in this new scene, or maybe you just can’t let it rest. If that’s the case…
3) Schedule extra time to rewrite
You don’t want to take away from your NaNo time. Besides the fact that getting new words is the most important thing to do if you want to ‘win,’ and get the ego boost that comes with winning, you are hopefully developing some good habits for writing you don’t want to interrupt. Instead, look at your calendar and find some time when you can do a rewrite outside of NaNo. Do you have a vacation day coming up? A particularly light Thanksgiving? Some time you scheduled off for NaNo to play Red Dead Redemption or the new Pokemon game?
Take some of that time and block it out for revisions.
There’s a catch here; don’t do this at the expense of your happiness and well-being. If you actually are at the point where you need to do a full rewrite of a scene because it’s stressing you out, however, then this time will be time well spent. Know going into it that you’re giving yourself an incredibly difficult task: you’re going to do a major rewrite while still going forward, which is never easy. However, if you pull it off, this option can be one of the most satisfying ways to deal with that scene. It completely removes the burden that scene was putting on you, and allows you to go forward knowing you have one less thing to do when it’s time for revisions.
How’s your NaNo coming? Anything you’re particularly proud of? Let me know in the comments below!