When building a novel, you are the architect, engineer, construction manager, interior designer, sales manager and promotional pitchperson. Jack-of-all-Trades, that’s you. But you are the builder and what you say (read: write), goes.
You design the blueprint, you lay the foundation, you build the structure, plan the entrances and the exit, throw in a maze of hallways (and secret passages if you are clever) with just enough windows for others to appreciate your work.
Then you come along and bulldoze a corner of your building during the interior design…wait…what?? Let me explain…
You start a project in November, as an example. It is winter, the emotion of the season is running high. You like winter (let’s say you live in a moderate, four season climate), and you are all into the sweater and hot chocolate, twinkle lights and family warmth. Your novel is beginning like gangbusters, with stops for holiday gatherings. You are really feeling your work. Then back to work, the cold of winter not a deterrent. Oh yes, this novel is really starting to take shape.
January rolls in and so do bills, colder temps and uh-oh, you have to stop for research. And you have a bad cold, or strep. Weeks go by and when you are finally ready to resume writing with a clear, drug free mind, it is February. You are sick of bills and the cold and…and where were you in your work? The dog wants out in the rain, the kids have the measles, your girlfriend is on a tear, the spouse is working late…
This is when the bulldozer comes out. You pick up writing were you were back in December when you were happy and warm with feeling and coziness and now you are annoyed and sniffly, and bill-weary so you plug into the story and your main character is getting a bit snarky. And sarcastic. Your sentences are either long and tiresome or short. Choppy. Mean. You. Just. Want. To. Get. Through. One. Chapter….
You don’t realize it but you are using your bulldozer to cover over what you’ve done, change the landscape and the look from your novel building’s windows! You don’t even realize the subtle changes until summer comes and you are sitting outside basking with a cool drink and your red pen and you feel as though your character needs an attitude enema and you are like…”what the hell happened?”
Bulldozing. It is called lots of things by experts greater than me. But it is what happens when you have a break in your writing and your mood changes, your attitude is softer/harder/angry/in love and your writing shifts. Might be bad, might not, but overall the tone and characterization of your novel’s home and family changes from the original intent. Your red ink is going to be angry and your architect and interior designer are going to beat you up.
Bulldozing is common. It happens to all of us. It isn’t rushing through the parts you don’t want to write. That’s called rushing. Ha! No, bulldozing is forever altering the landscape because you…..
…can’t get into your characters again.
Here’s how to prevent bulldozing:
Character sheets. Doing your homework. You know your characters as deeply as you know yourself. And I don’t mean superficially, but intrinsically, emotionally, spiritually, physically. So much so that when you show up with that bulldozer, the characters stand outside of their beloved novel home and stop you from doing harm to their world. You will catch yourself when you truly are connected to your characters.
Seriously, watch out for bulldozing. If you can’t recapture a mood or recreate a setting, go back and re-read your work, re-examine your characterizations and get to know your family again. Then resume your decorating and/or building. Don’t let your hard work fall victim to insidious and avoidable destruction. You deserve to treat your work better.
Your job is to create consistency in your work, in your characters, in their world. Learn to tap into your characters and your world at will, and build a fabulous, cohesive novel.
Leave the bulldozer to your editor.