A while ago, I wrote about a problem I was having with my novel which I dubbed, “The Bridge Problem”. Well, let me tell you about how that went.
On New Years Day I reached 60k which was triple the highest word count of any previous iteration of SC, my big bad book. I was proud of myself, but I also had a web series pilot to produce. I’d given myself from Christmas to New Years to write SC all I wanted, knowing all the while that from New Years, I would temporarily put SC aside and focus on my web series for several months.
When I eventually went back to it again, I realized I’d left off in a place completely off the map. I had not planned the bridge situation in my plotting and I had no idea where it was going to go. In fact, I had no idea how to make it go anywhere. Whether I’d lost my momentum, or my past self had written things into a dead end, I was stuck. So I did what I always did when I needed to get back into writing (which happens more often than I’d like to admit). I did research.
I went back a bit and began reading what I’d written, drawing things out on paper, putting together vision boards, and looking up real locations via the internet. It was then that I noticed the big scene I had written last before putting SC aside took place at a very real bridge, but I’d described it all wrong.
The first thing I did when I understood the problem I was facing was to go on Google Maps and look for a different bridge on which the scene could take place as closely to the original idea as possible. I needed a smaller bridge over a smaller river with fewer witnesses, but still within walking distance of the location my protagonist finds herself in at the beginning of the scene. I got enormously lucky and found one. Upriver, a smaller river fed into the big one, and following that one, I eventually found a small bridge on the edge of town that was exactly what I was looking for. It was for trains, so there weren’t cars crowding around, and I can’t quite explain how lucky I am that it existed, exactly what I needed where I needed it.
I had to rewrite a bit and change my protagonist’s path from her going from A to B to her going from A to C. Once she got to the bridge, the scene ended up changing a bit, too. There weren’t cars around here and that changed things a bit, plus the fact that if they stayed too long a train would inevitably show up. I also have never seen this bridge in person, nor could I see it on the internet due to its distance from the nearest road and complete uselessness to tourists. Under normal circumstances, I probably would have made another Research Trip up to see it for myself, but circumstances have not been normal for a while now, so I had to guess, and with time and effort I wrote out what happened on this new bridge, and what happened afterward.
When all was said and done, I had rewritten everything from a certain point all the way past the point I’d last left off. It took a few days, or weeks, I don’t really remember. By the end of it I realized I had rendered over two-thousand words of the story useless. If I had taken those two thousand words out before rewriting everything, I would have fallen under the 60k milestone I’d reached on New Years Day. Instead, I got to somewhere near 63k and then deleted the old scene, causing my word count to fall just above 60k.
It felt like a huge step backward, and it was disappointing. There were a couple of things that happened in those lost words that I loved, but didn’t fit into the new story. It felt like a failure, that I hadn’t managed to keep any of the old scene I’d written. It took ages to get my word count back to where it had been before I’d taken out the old scene. It was discouraging, but despite all that, the story afterward flowed easily and I knew I had done things right.
Sometimes, the right path isn’t easy, it’s a big pain in the butt. But also, sometimes there’s only one path, and the only way forward is to take it.