Fix little things before they become big problems.

It’s funny–owning a house is a great way to get a lot of inspiration for this writing blog (like painting and fixing driveways). I never really thought it would be, but I guess, if you’re clever or desperate enough, you can make horrible analogies between household issues and writing conflicts. Today’s household issue is something a little… shitty. Like, literally. Like, backed up septic system shitty.

I don’t really know everything that’s going on right now. All I know is this: the previous owner of my new house had tree roots from these giant, pain-in-the-ass cottonwoods digging into his septic system. When we had the system checked and drained before we moved in, the woman told us she cleared the roots out of the line (at no charge), but that it would be a problem again if we didn’t get rid of the tree. We totally plan on getting rid of the tree.

This weekend, the husband and I were in the backyard when we noticed a pipe draining water onto our lawn. The pipe, presumably, connects to the septic system. We found the pipe’s lid and closed it. The next morning, instead of draining out into the back yard, it drained into our basement.

I think we should have kept the lid off.

Anyway, the plumber came today (again–as I write these posts the day before, I still don’t know what the prognosis is). Hopefully, I don’t have to pay out the nose. Or the–well, nevermind. You can figure that one out.

This whole situation got me thinking–this would have been so much easier if the previous homeowner had taken the time to really take care of little issues (like the trees) before they became a real problem. And no, it’s not that he didn’t think the trees weren’t a big deal. He told us before we moved in that the trees would have to go, because they’d been effing up his septic and his sprinklers for years. Great.

Instead of dealing with them, though, he put it off until it turned into something much worse than it had to be. He put the little issues to the back of his head, and when they DID finally reveal themselves, they were a much bigger deal than they should have been.

The same thing happens when we write. There are tiny problems that arise while we’re outlining or while we’re working, and a lot of the time we see them but think, “oh, I’ll edit that later.” Sometimes it’s something simple like spelling or grammar. In which case–yes, please do wait until you’re finished. Those things are easy to edit and change at the end of the day, and they don’t affect your whole storyline.

Other issues, though, are more detrimental in the long run. For example, sometimes we realize early on that a character is going to be important in later chapters, but we don’t want to figure out how to work them into the plotline quite yet. The next thing we know, we need that character to come forward and make shit happen, but you’ve spent so little time developing him that your reader won’t understand his sudden imporance.

There are also plotline issues, where you realize certain situations are impossible or implausible, and you know you need to change them significantly, but you don’t really feel like doing it yet. As you keep writing, you’ll either continue to reference the scene that needs to change, or you’ll write as though that scene never happened without referencing the thing you were planning on replacing it with. When you come back to edit your book later, it’s more than one scene that needs editing. Whole sections of the book may need to be totally rewritten.

Don’t put off editing major pitfalls in your story, just as you shouldn’t put off fixing major issues in any other part of your life. Before long, you’ll notice shit starting to hit the fan, and getting everything to go right again will take significantly more effort.


Categories: My Life, Tips and Tricks, Writing

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