Packing to go home is always harder than packing to leave.
At home, you have all your stuff right there, you can leave things behind if they don’t fit into the suitcase, and you can wear other clothes so you can get your laundry done in advance. Packing to go *back*, suddenly you have more things to fit into the same amount of space, you can’t remember how you got it all into one suitcase in the first place and you have to pack the clothes, shoes and toothpaste you are currently wearing and using.
So yeah, I’m going to have a fun day.
It’s like editing.
No, really, I’m not reaching for this comparison at all.
See, your suitcase is your plan, right? You’ve got characters and plot and stuff in there, some odds and ends of character development shoved in the corners, and you’re all set for your writing ‘trip’.
Inevitably along the way you will find that you’ve forgotten a few essentials, like the toothpaste of Three Dimensional Protagonists and the dry socks of Plot-Hole Stuffing. So you’ll pick those up and add them on the way. Plus you’ll find some things on the trip that you want, like that darling little secondary character who’ll go beautifully with the NaNoWriMo sweater you couldn’t resist. Souvenirs are nice!
Except that when you need to bring your story ‘home’, suddenly your plan-suitcase is just completely inadequate to the job. You have more characters and more plot and suddenly you realize all that waffling on in chapters five, eight and ten is hanging out the back of the suitcase looking saggy and sad.
Editing is like trying to fit all the detritus of a long trip back into the same suitcase you left with. Unlike real life mementos – and underwear – there is no financial pain or social awkwardness involved in abandoning what won’t fit. You need to go through and decide, again, what will serve the story best, what you need and what you really like but doesn’t serve the plot.
Of course a plan, unlike a suitcase, can be expanded to fit that darling little secondary character, if she still fits the plot. But anything that doesn’t fit should be either left behind or – if you can’t bear to – put in a second ‘cut files’ suitcase just in case you do need them someday.
Now I need to stop putting off packing. Ugh. Wish me luck.