Monday, April 21, 2014

My Writing Process: Letting The Story Go Where It Wants

I wrote earlier of deciding when to end a story. And I've written in the past of times when my characters do and say things that actually surprise me. But I experienced something last night that was quite exhilarating and unexpected. As a reader I love a good plot twist. I just didn't know that I could enjoy the same thing as a writer. I mean, I'm writing the book. How can I not know what's next. I have no idea. I just know that's what happened.

I started writing a chapter and, frankly, it was spinning its wheels. I had no idea where it was going. I had some fun dialogue and a few laughs, but the plot wasn't being advanced. Why? Because I couldn't figure out where to take it. I was afraid to have my characters take any action until I knew where I wanted the plot to go. But I couldn't decide. Catch the bad guy? Almost catch the bad guy? Kill the bad guy? None of the above? If choice D, then where to now? I just couldn't make up my mind what I wanted to happen next. 

So I decided to choose option E: surprise myself. I put the main character in an iffy situation and see what he would do. He did a cool thing, it turns out. And as a result of this cool thing, he made a startling discovery that will lead to some neat plot points down the road. And the exciting part was that, until about thirty seconds before they travelled out of my brain, down my arms, into my fingers, and onto the screen, I had no idea what the words and events were going to be. 

I have to admit, while it was a fun way to write, it was also quite daunting and exhausting. On one hand, I was so thrilled by what happened that I had trouble getting to sleep. On the other hand, despite being restless, I was really wrung out. Actually physically spent. It's kind of like hacking through the jungle with a slightly dull machete (though the dull part is probably only because it was me). Once you get to a clearing, you really appreciate it, but you'll be sore when you arrive. I don't mind visiting from time to time, but I don't want to live in the jungle all the time.  


  1. My story is a harmony of yours. As I counsel the patients recovering from addiction there are times when I want to offer them healing words and meaningful responses but there are no words to be found in my head, in my mouth or even plastered on the walls. So I cheat. I sort of listen for, look for, search for help from the holy spirit in the room. (Mind you, I can't describe what happens because it's so much more a thing that happens than it is a thing I do). But then I say something more and keep talking. The words that I hear coming from my lips are at once, surprising to me and healing to the patient.
    It doesn't always happen. It's nothing I control our can predict. But I can appreciate! And I do.
    I think that's similar. It's a blast isn't it?

  2. It is! I have great admiration for you and others working with people fighting addiction. I know from experience that dealing with the addicted is draining on the best of days. God bless!