Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Putting Yourself In A Corner

At the beginning of any writing project, the possibilities are endless.  You can take a story and spin it off in any direction you choose.  This, of course, is the daydreaming stage, which although fun, isn’t entirely why we went into this business.

We went into it to write.

Taking that daydreaming and putting something concrete on paper is what I find the most interesting.  My story can finally find voice!  Unfortunately, if you’re not careful, you can write yourself into a corner, and the further into the story you go, the greater the potential for that corner becomes.

The reason for this, obviously, is that having any semblance of consistency and sense in your work requires that things not change dramatically from the framework you’ve previously built.  If your hero is a swashbuckling pirate who chases women across the ocean, you can’t suddenly make the focal point to be the dwarf who plundered inland and decided to create his own empire.  Not only would it confuse people, but it would also make your book unmarketable since no one wants to be all that confused by what they read.

What this all means is that you have to be patient and focused with your book so that it goes in the direction you want it to.  This all sounds easy, but those who’ve spent any time writing understand that all it takes is one unnecessary tangent for things to spin out of control.  And they don’t spin out of control all at once – one minor thing leads to another minor thing…and before you know it, you’re 50 pages in and figure out that what you’ve written is garbage.

That’s when you have to make a choice, neither of which is pleasant.  You can continue down the road you’re on, changing your story and hoping it gets better, or you can go back to the point of divergence and scrap what you wrote past that.  Sometimes we cling to the first choice since we figure we’ve done all this work and don’t want it to go to waste.  Other times we curse and stomp around like a three year old when we know that we’ve wasted weeks writing what’s no longer any good.

I vote for stomping around and starting over.  I’ve made the mistake in the past of staying on bad material(Canidae), and it only means you’ll have that much more to re-write when you finally come to your senses.  Focus on your work.  Go back and re-read it to make sure it makes sense.  If you need to, write a little bit and then ask a beta reader to chime in.  It’ll be a pain in the ass, but it’ll keep you out of that corner.

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