I’m sure you know the feeling.
You’ve almost finished writing your novel. It has been months, maybe years, and finally it is typed up and ready for the final “The End”.
But something bugs you. There is one little detail or scene or speech that just doesn’t resonate correctly with you. It’s like a note out of key in the middle of your favourite song; not enough to ruin the whole thing, but enough to make you uncomfortable when you hear it.
It’s just one little thing, you tell yourself. I’m almost finished. I don’t want to go back and change something small and silly.
Often, those small silly changes suddenly mean a whole lot of re-writing, because when you change one thing, often the repercussions echo through the whole book.
I have had this many times, but I have learned a very important thing… If something is bugging me, no matter how small, I must change it. Every time I do, I get that instant warm, peaceful feeling, and I know that at last, everything is right with my novel. Often, it’s a character who does something that seemed right when I first wrote it, but after I have come to know them, I realise that they wouldn’t do that.
I have had that nagging feeling for a few days now.
My fantasy series has grown to five books, and I have worked out what will happen in all of them. But something seemed out of sync with my two main characters, and I began to get the sinking feeling that what I needed was not a quick simple change, but a whole new book.
There was too big a jump between book 3 and book 4. It didn’t sit right with my characters. They needed an extra book to sort themselves out, before the hectic emotional upheaval that book 4 is going to bring.
I tentatively made an extra folder on my computer. I changed the folders of books 4 and 5 to read books 5 and 6. I opened up a new document and stared at it for a few minutes. Yes, the characters needed an extra book, but I hadn’t the faintest idea what it was going to be about.
I saved the blank document and closed the empty folder, and switched my computer off. Another thing I have learned from this amazing experience of writing this series is that if I just relax and let my brain marinade, the answers will come.
So today, I had to make a longish car journey up the coast to take my daughter to watch the Mr Price Pro surfing tournament, and while she was happily singing away to herself, the marinading process started flavouring some half-baked ideas I had floating around.
By the time I had arrived home this evening, I had a very good idea of the plot of Ripmender #4. And you know what… I have that instant warm, peaceful feeling.
I have done right by my characters, and they will not let me down…