Got home from Florida yesterday, so the trip metaphors should fade away now. But this last one was inspired by unpacking.

I began with a bag for each event on the trip: one for the RenFestival, one for library talks, one for bookstore signings, etc. Then there was a bag for overnight stops, just motel needs and the next day's clothes, and other bags for "maybe" stuff. It was very neat and workable, just like a plot when it's still in your head.

Reality is that you need something from this bag and then from that one, and the question arises "Will I need this again, or can it go back to its original bag?" And where is its original bag? At the back of the luggage compartment, covered with boots, books, and who knows what else. The plan falls apart, and organization becomes chaos.

Some plots end up that way as well. They disintegrate into such a maze of backstory, substory, and character explanation that the plotline, that organized plan you had in your head, is completely invisible.

What do you do? Here's where plotting is unlike traveling, at least for me. On a trip, I stop and take time to reorganize, putting things into familiar places as best I can. In a story, I leave it alone for a while. Clarity comes from stepping back, letting it rest, and then reading with fresh eyes.

So maybe packing wasn't a great metaphor for writing, but it comes together at the end. Whatever the method, with a little time I get back to the place I wanted to be: maybe not exactly as first intended, but workable, and that's what counts.

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