Look, many of us can’t say that our original plans go off without a hitch once the pen meets the paper. Even outlines change as you move along, so there’s a very organic undercurrent to writing in general. Maybe it isn’t that strong with you because you have it very controlled, but there’s something at some point. It could be the editing stage when you junk 95% of what you wrote and then act like it was all part of the plan. That’s another version of a twisting, serpentine idea, which can be difficult to wrangle. It can easily derail a story if you aren’t careful or flexible. So, what are some ways to handle this potentially inevitable hurdle?
- Ride the wave when it strikes because it can be your subconscious showing you a connection. This doesn’t mean to do it blindly and without holding onto the reins a bit. If you see a cliff coming then don’t assume there’s a sea of comfy marshmallows waiting below. It could be jagged rocks. After all, your subconscious can be a real jerk at times.
- If you’re in the outline stage and an idea isn’t congealing then leave it vague. You might know where you want the characters to end up or a special event, but not the pieces leading up to it. By starting the story, you jog things loose and begin the path towards the shining idea. Could be that you’re so fixated on that one spot that you aren’t looking at anything else.
- Do NOT think it is mandatory to junk 80-95% of your completed story. Yes, I know many authors love to say ‘kill your babies’ or whatever when it comes to editing. It doesn’t mean you purposely destroy everything, including the good stuff. If you end up with a story that is nothing like the original then you might have just murdered one idea and started a new one. Oops.
- Listen to your characters since their personalities will drive events. You put a lot of work into crafting them, so they will act like an extension of your own imagination that interacts with the world/story. They might sense something you don’t.
- Do NOT listen only to your characters and ignore your own voice. Some of those voices aren’t too bright and they don’t know what’s coming down the road.
- You might find that you have created several paths with foreshadowing and only one of them reaches the finale. See if you can make the failures merge with the successful one during editing runs. Maybe they were tricks left by the villain or false assumptions made by the heroes. They are capable of coming to the wrong conclusion if they are still trying to figure the mystery out. This is what I did in War of Nytefall: Eradication. Book plug successful!
- If you’re really unsure of hitting the dismount with an idea that is winding its way as your write then get some beta readers. All you really need is one to read specifically for continuity and if things make sense. Just ask them to focus on that part of the experience and admit that you aren’t sure it came out clearly. A second opinion can do wonders.