Monday, March 8, 2010

Predictably Unexpected

The other day, Piedmont Writer posed in a post an interesting question: "Do you ever do something to your book that was never in the way you originally saw it?"

Okay, this is currently happening to me with The Thief Book in a big way, since apparently my characters decided the new ending was a chance to Carpe Diem and totally change everything from what I'd expected. They want to talk about their feelings and grow as people and nonsense like them. (Curse them. Don't they know I've got a schedule and plans?) But that's a conversation for a different time.

Basically, what I'm trying to say is that I've a feeling most writers encounter a moment when the story just stops going to way we thought it was going to go. If it's not in the first draft where characters sometimes grab the wheel and drive off in whole other directions (and, let's face it, that happens), it's during the revisions, when you realize things need to change and go a different way or the characters decide to politely (or not so politely) inform you that they'd like to take things in a different direction. Today, I watched a vlog in which John Green stated he generally throws out 90% of his first draft. Things change in revisions.

But, this is a good thing. And, more than that, it's a natural, sort of unavoidable thing. A long time ago, Lady Glamis said something about everyone growing. (Sorry. I'd link to the original post, because it was pretty brilliant, except I couldn't remember the exact language, so Google wouldn't help me.) Anyway, to me, the ideas seemed related.

See, Glamis's post, if I may paraphrase, and if I'm not making too bold with the original content, said that over the course of the time it takes to write a book, we all learn a lot and grow as people and writers. Therefore, from the time we start the first draft to the time we end it, and even more from the time we write the first draft and the time we revise it to make the second (or later) draft(s), we could be in a very different place as writers. So, from there, we try to fix things up to be equal to where we are now. But, of course, we grow even more in that time, so it's an unending cycle.

Well, it seems to be that sometimes, we're getting jumped and surprised by our stories, because we've grown more than we thought. So, all of a sudden, these ideas and realizations come to us that we didn't see or think about before, because now we are wise enough to see them.

So, I'm warning y'all know, you're going to be surprised. You'll be surprised by your ideas, your characters, your writing, and even yourself. It's going to happen. Expect the unexpected.

Okay, sharing time: whose been taking by surprise lately? Anyone's writing/ideas/characters do something really crazy and unexpected lately?


  1. I love it when that happens, because imho it makes my work better. While I was writing Uncut Diamonds, Cindy wanted more screen time. I kept giving her more to say and do. Not enough, it had to be more. So I went with it and the story improved with Cindy having a larger role--a foil to her sister. Her subplot added a different dimension to the novel.

  2. I've been completely turned upside down and inside out over the course of the last few weeks with new ideas and writing dilemmas. Things I thought were going right along in a nice orderly fashion (to finish the first draft) have imploded, exploded and completely torn me assunder. It's nice to get all these new ideas flowing but it's scary as hell to think I could write them. I suppose it's how we grow as writers though. And thanks for the shout out. 'Preciate it.

  3. This post is so true! It has happened to me at every phase. My story went in a completely different direction during the writing of my first draft, and it has done it again during the rewrites. It's crazy, but I like it.

  4. Oh my goodness... I think I remember writing a post about that, but now I can't find it either. Wow! I'll let you know if I find it. But yes, we all change as we write, and it'd difficult to keep up. I love how things change, though. It makes my stories more exciting than my original vision.

  5. I've been surprised by my stories too but often, it's a happy surprise!

  6. Karen -- I concur. Sometimes you just have to run with it and see where it goes. Sometimes it's some place awesome.

    Piedmont -- My pleasure. Yes, being mauled by an idea is never fun, but I think it is how we grow as writers. Best of luck with the idea storm.

    Susan -- I'm glad the 'crazy' works for you.

    Glamis -- I agree. The changes that come keep things interesting and add vibrant, unexpected perspecties.

    L.T. -- I think most authors would agree the surprise is generally a good one.