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Dianne Salerni : Writer of Teen and Middle Grade Fiction | Backing Up

Backing Up


Earlier this week, I wrote a great scene in my WIP. One of my main characters witnessed someone who lived in her apartment building pass through a solid wall after revealing herself to be not human. I was thrilled with the way it came together. Then I went to write the next chapter … and couldn’t. The story came to a screeching halt as I realized there was only one way for my MC to react.


You might be thinking, “Terror is good.” But in this case, it’s not. My terrified character has every reason to flee from this situation and no reason whatsoever to do the things I need her to do in this story. She has no investment to make her investigate this “monster” further. I wouldn’t blame her for curling up in a ball and quietly having a breakdown.

Unable to go forward, I had to back up. Removing the event entirely didn’t seem like a good option. The story would just stall out without this scene.

The solution ended up being simple — although it took me 3 frustrating days to figure it out. If the strange person passes through a solid wall without revealing herself to be non-human, the situation changes drastically. What would you think if you saw someone pass through a seemingly solid wall? You’d think it was a trick, right? That there was some kind of hidden passage there.

A hidden passage gives my MC all the motivation I need to keep her digging into this mystery. Who wouldn’t love to find a secret passageway in their building? The “monstrous” nature of the non-human character can be revealed later, when my MC is too far into the adventure to pull out and curling up in a ball to have a breakdown is not an option.

Two paragraphs deleted in my previous chapter, and my story is back on track.

When’s the last time you had to back up? Did it end up being a simple change? And how long did it take you to figure it out?

13 Responses to Backing Up

  1. Glad you figured out your problem so you could keep the scene you really loved. It must have been frustrating to have to stop, but glad you figured it out.

  2. mshatch says:

    I’ve also gone back to give one of my characters some motivation for continuing on her journey as I'[d discovered she didn’t really have any by the time I got to page 119…so back I go…

  3. Secret passage – I like that.
    I had a back up moment near the end of my first book. One scene was a challenge to make plausible.

  4. I’ve had lots of backup moments. 🙂

  5. That gif is perfect for how I write. I’ve put myself into so many corners that backing up is the only way out. I think writing is like doing a huge puzzle with several missing parts. Not only do you have to assemble the whole, you have to create those parts to finish the picture.

    Loved the post.

  6. J E Oneil says:

    That’s an interesting dilemma, a character who doesn’t react the way you want them to. It’s such a pain to work it out. And your story sounds better for the shift, so at least that came out of those three days of frustration.

  7. Whew! Great solution to that issue.

    Whenever I start getting bored with my story, it’s time to back up. It’s usually pretty obvious to see where I went off the rails–usually rambling is the culprit. 🙂

  8. RO says:

    Yikes! I have to be honest. If someone walked through a wall, I would be scared, but then I would want to know who in the heck it was! (Lol). As a blogger, I have to backtrack constantly. Mostly because my thought process changed, or because what I am writing doesn’t make sense. Great topic!

  9. Anna says:

    When a moment like that happens for me I just act like I’ve done the correction and plow on. I learned this from NaNo. So I don’t forget, I leave a note for myself and add to it as I go, addressing the issues on the next round–I guess that’s going back. 🙂


  10. Joanne Fritz says:

    I get stuck and have to backtrack a lot. Often wish I could be a plotter and figure it all out ahead of time, but then I worry I wouldn’t have the motivation to actually write the thing! Your solution was clever. But I’m not surprised.

  11. All. The. Time. That’s a good analogy for it! I once read a quote that was more about life, but it SO applies to writing: “No matter how far you’ve gone in the wrong direction, turn back!” Some people will keep going because they’ll think, “I don’t want to delete 50 pages…that’s a lot of work wasted.” And they’ll sit there and stare at the screen for a month. Or they’ll abandon the project altogether. That’s the real waste…we have to be willing to just hit that delete key if it makes the story better.

  12. Good solution! I’m glad you were able to work things out, and that happened because you know your characters well enough to know how they’d react. 🙂

    I tend to ramble sometimes, which leads to unneeded tangents and detours. All of a sudden, I’ll realize nobody would CARE about that, so yep! Time to back up, leave the side road, and get back on the highway again.

  13. Cynthia says:

    I go back a lot when I write. That’s probably why I’m not done with my novel yet.

    If I saw someone walk through a wall in broad daylight, I might investigate. But if I saw this happening in the dark, I would probably scream. =)