The advice during NaNo is, don’t edit. Don’t go back, just keep writing. Every word counts.
But what if you just wrote something that doesn’t fit with where you thought your novel was going? I’m not talking about a day’s writing, just a few lines that you look at and go, ‘Where did that come from?’ I did that recently. The main character was talking with her probably-going-to-be-ex-husband and mentioned visiting her father. Her husband’s response. “He doesn’t live it Rome.” Next line. “How do you know that?”
Oh, wow. That could be a huge vat of intrigue, and it really surprised me. I didn’t think the jerky husband cared enough to know where his wife’s husband was. (He hadn’t noticed that she’d been in Europe for the last three days.)
So I took a break from writing to think about the possible ramifications. I took a short walk. It had possibilities, but wasn’t where I thought the story should go. I thought about it a bit more, tempted to explore the options, then I did something very, very satisfying. I deleted those two sentences. And, voila, I was back on track. I replaced them with, “I thought your father lived in Domodossola.” The vat of intrigue was closed, and it was just common knowledge between a couple that had been married for over twenty years. And I could keep writing.
Sometimes that fastest way to make progress is to hit the delete key. If it had been longer than two lines, I might have put it into the sub-heading ‘didn’t use’ and the words would still count. But this was only ten words and it would take me longer to copy and paste it into the right file and come back to where I was. Plus, there is something so very satisfying about watching those words that don’t belong disappear character by character.
I often write sentences that surprise me and I’m thrilled. While I have a detailed outline, I discovery-write my characters, so I gradually figure out what they’re like based partly on what the story needs, but also on whatever happens to pop into my head. When that happens the words flow, or I quickly see connections with what has already happened, or what I still want to happen. But sometimes it’s a path I don’t want to travel.
To keep the story on track, I’ll hit the delete key when needed. I think it makes me write faster, not slower.
But then, I like to edit. Even during November.