Following the story

Six years ago, less a week, I wrote a blog post titled “Protect the Work.” It’s all about how, once you decide what story you want to write, you need to protect it from outside influences.

It’s an important concept. One new writers tend to have trouble with. It’s more “You don’t like that? Fine, I can change it!” Of course, there are some new writers for whom their every word is golden and should never be touched by human hands (or pens). Both attitudes create problems.

I firmly believe a writer should protect his/her work. Know the story you’re writing–what kind of story it is and what you want to say with it. What it’s about. And protect it. Write that story.

But be prepared to follow the story where it goes. Down whatever path it might wander.

Stories do that, you know. They’re flighty creatures. They tend to take it into their heads to go see what it might look like over here. Or, what about that? What if that happens instead? Plotters do all of this wandering about during their plotting phase, before they really get started with the writing. Pantsers do it while they’re writing, in the midst of the writing. Those of us who fall somewhere in between–the story can make us crazy. But we do have room to follow the story where it leads. ‘Cause it’s going to lead you.

In the Rose books, I really had no intention of Torchay being a major character. The two main characters were going to be Kallista and Stone. And Stone IS a major character. But Torchay…just sorta — happened. The plot’s still the same as the outline I came up with. But the story went entirely astray from my original ideas. And it’s the better for it.

Writers need to be able to hold two contradictory ideas in their heads at the same time. Because we DO two opposing things at the same time. We know what the story is. But we have to be open to changing it as we go along, as the story unfolds.

I am currently writing a steampunk novella. I’m trying to make it erotic, but don’t know how successful I am at that, because it’s not going exactly like I thought it would. It’s still a steampunk novella–though the steam and the punkness hasn’t quite kicked in yet–but it’s veering. Or maybe it’s taking side trips. I’m not driving straight ahead like I thought I would.

Maybe it’s the novella bit I’m having trouble with. I have always had trouble writing short. I’m always coming up with this cool bit, and that great character, and this other neat story angle. This is why I need a road map, and a ruthless red pen. So I can keep myself on the proper path, and then cut out all the extraneous foliage–er, verbiage–when I get to wherever it is I’m going.

That said, I came up with a fabulous detail for the ending of this story yesterday. The story still ends with the sacrifice ending, with the hopeful twist–but there’s a twist to the twist that I really like. And I can’t tell you what it is, because that would be a spoiler.

So I’m on DAY 17, and I went to the dentist and got the chip on the inside of my lower incisor filled in and smoothed out in just 30 minutes! And I need to go beat the boy about the head and shoulders. He’s still asleep, and it’s 3 p.m. Shame on him! I am reading too many books today. :)

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