Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Backtracking by BL Hamilton

I'm a frequent backtracker, and I mean backtracking, not backpacking.

I'm talking about my writing. I'm constantly going back and changing things.

It not so bad when it’s something relatively easy, like when its just a minor tweak; I just have to go back, and find the appropriate spot, or spots, where that item should be there, and then get back to where I was.

It really only takes a few minutes with that handy tool call “find” just as long as I know the scene where it should have been, and can come up with a single word, or distinct phrase, that will take me right to it. If I can’t do this, or I’m not sure where I need to add that something, then it’s a big pain, since I’d have to start from the top and skim through the whole manuscript looking for all the right spots to add it.

I’ve done this both ways, on just my current WIP.

But sometimes it dawns on me that my character couldn't, wouldn't, or should say or do what I have them saying or doing. There’s always something, to the point that I get the feeling my writing works on the two steps forward one step back basis. I’m just constantly backtracking.

I’ve been known to have to go back several whole chapters. None of which is all that bad, except when the changes I make, change everything that happened after it. I really hate when I come up with those.

This last week, I had a moment when I realized that a minor character wouldn’t just stand by and watch. She may be minor to the story, but she’s got quite a personality, and inserting her more fully into that scene changed the outcome of that scene, changing everything that I wrote after that, and made a huge difference in the story.

And it needed it. Well, actually, I needed a way to get the main characters out of that scene earlier, but that didn’t seem possible with all that happens in that scene, until I considered this one minor character. And then I realized I she wouldn't have just stood there. And a new scenario played out in my head.

Backtracking that time was kind of fun. I knew what words to use to find the scene, because it the name that minor character’s business and better utilizing her strong personality did get the hero and heroine out of there a lot sooner. J

And aside from all that, what I am currently writing is really backtracking. I realized I needed to add and change several things near the beginning of this one manuscript of mine. Most importantly, I realized I needed to show what happens between Tuesday and Sunday of the first week the Hero and Heroine meet.

What I had before touched lightly on those days, in just one paragraph, as in not anywhere near enough detail, so I thought I should add about a chapter, and forty-three pages, and almost three chapters later, I’m on Thursday. I think now I might be showing too much, but I can edit out what I really don’t need, once this story is finished. It’s not going be a short any way, never was going to be because it covers too many years.

In fact, I was originally trying to cut down scenes to make it shorter, but since I can later turn the tables and have other characters stand in the forefront, I figured I should make each section as long as I can and edit them down later, after it’s finished.
This may well be my next monster manuscript though. I even think it might be bigger than my first one whose rough draft was over 130 thousand words. Yeah, I think this will be much bigger.
Though I doubt it will rival Konnie’s so-called opus, whose rough came out at over sixteen hundred PAGES! Yeah, I don’t envy her the job of editing that monster.

Happy writing everyone! J


  1. Backtracking ... I think it was only last week on a TWC Chat night someone mentioned Proofreading from back (final page) to the front (first page)to concentrate on the text. Another form of 'backtracking' perhaps?
    But yes, I've been down the same road as you, BL! And found the indisputable TRUTH of my favourite Robert Frost poem, "The Road Not Taken". In some ways you could argue that there's no such thing as a "Minor" character: just changing one small action/word/thought can turn the plotline on its head!

  2. Lol! You have a point Paul. But I don't need much to distract me from what I was doing. Read my most recent post.