Let’s pretend that never happened

I admit, I feel a little embarrassed to show my face here again after my unplanned and unexpected Thanksgiving absence. I can most certainly give very good excuses, but that doesn’t change the fact that I wish I would have found a way to write here, anyway. When I was a kid playing dolls with my sister, when one of them did or said something really stupid, we could invoke the magic words: “Let’s pretend that never happened.” The doll got to preserve his dignity, as if making a fool of himself were just a bad dream. In real life, this doesn’t work quite as well. Denial, as useful as it is, is at best a temporary state.

The good news is that you CAN invoke the all-powerful “it never happened,” when you write fiction. You can wipe the slate clean or even just tidy it up around the edges. As I was entering the last week of my NaNo, I became aware of what the ending should be, and I was giddy with its discovery. The problem was, there were some details in the beginning of the story that would make the ending come across as a little less believable. I tried and tried to attach that ending to what I had like trying to jam pieces together from two different puzzles. And then, eureka! I realized all I had to do was make minor adjustments to the beginning, and the ending would fall into place. And since endings are the hardest part for me (I feel a little jealous of writers who see the ending with perfect clarity before they begin), making some changes to the beginning seemed a small, not to mention obvious, price to pay.

I think that as writers, we often think that, as soon as we’ve put it on paper (or screen), we’ve written it in stone. We’ve sealed our characters’ fate. But we haven’t. We get to change our minds in writing in a way we can’t in our own life. We get to pretend it never happened — and by our very pretending (and judicious use of the “backspace” bar) — we can make it so. What a wonderful world.

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3 Responses to Let’s pretend that never happened

  1. Josh says:

    Congratulations!

    I can appreciate having trouble finding the right ending, so if all it takes is a little tweaking of the beginning to make it all work, that’s great!

  2. Jenna says:

    I am still grappling with the ending of my NaNo. I think I may have to do the same as you, and shift something in the beginning to find the ending. And personally, I think writers that know the ending before they begin are probably very boring writers indeed. Isn’t writing about taking the journey, and discovering the ending once you, you know, get to the end?

  3. Lacey says:

    I do like the sense of discovery that comes from not knowing exactly what’s going to happen. There’s a writer in my writers’ group who always knows the way something will end when he begins; he says it helps him to know where he’s “going” because he can allow himself to take detours and get off track, as long as what he does leads to that same destination in the end. Lately I’ve wanted to make my novels like DVDs with about three alternate endings. :p But come to think of it, I think my endings have been better when I haven’t known what they would be. It’s just so stressful! I hope your ending goes well for you. 🙂 I just printed my “finished” novel out yesterday, and I’m going to jump right into rearranging it.

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