Last month I talked about barrelling through difficult parts of writing, even though you know you'll need to change it later, in order to keep up your writing momentum. And while that's fine for short stories, what about novels? Are you really going to remember that the fifth paragraph on page 83 needs to be re-written? Or that you forgot to describe what the building looked like on page 37? Or that a line on page 66 is a little wonky?
(If you can remember all this, congratulations on your amazing memory. I am envious of you.)
I've been re-writing an old novel, and every so often I'll realize that there's something I forgot to describe or there's a line I've written that might not work with the world of the story. However, instead of going back and trying to make it perfect, I'm jotting down a note and continuing to write.
After all, I can't work on the second draft until I finish the first.
There are multiple ways that you can leave breadcrumbs for your future self:
write notes in a notebook
write notes in your “StoryTitle-NOTES” document (we all have one of those, right?)
leave comments in the document (like an editor)
write notes straight into the story
For this project I'm writing the notes directly in the story. They're in parenthesis and highlighted, so that they stand out from the actual story. This way, when I finish the first draft, I can go back through the document, pick up these breadcrumbs, and fix those areas of concern without worrying what the next scene is going to look like or where I'm going with this plot thread.
My main goal is not to lose momentum. I've been getting some great word-counts in over the past week, and I know that if I pause to fiddle around with the description of a building, I'm going to spend far more time than necessary trying to get it right. By the time I get back to writing, I might've forgotten where I was going or lost the energy to focus.
As I continue to write, I'm trying to be more aware of my strengths and weaknesses, so that I can figure out ways to work with and around them. There are hundreds of people out there telling you “The Perfect Way To Write,” but the important thing is to learn what works for you*. And right now, these breadcrumbs are working great.
*And then you should write a blog post about it, so that you'll always have it written down somewhere in case you forget.