Flexible. That’s the key word in this writing business. We gotta be flexible, because we can’t always predict the curveballs Life will toss at us. We can’t always predict those things that later we wish we would’ve known. Sometimes they morph into mistakes, and maybe we shouldn’t avoid them, as Sam pointed out yesterday. Maybe it’s all part of the Bigger Plan.
It’s the same with first drafts.
I’m a pantser, trying very hard to learn how to write to outline. Right or wrong, I have this idea that outlines should save me a lot of trouble down the road. At least, that’s my theory, because I often take wrong turns and end up un-writing thousands of words.
So, for my current Work in Progress, I decided to try this outline approach. I used as a template Hallie Ephron’s blueprint in her wonderful book, Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel. Lo and behold, answering her questions and figuring out what information needed to go when and where actually gave me the skeleton of an outline! I sharpened my pencils and was all set to go.
Somewhere about 10k words in, I noticed my draft was a bit off-kilter from my outline. No problem, I told myself. The story itself was more or less on track. I will go back and edit later, of course. I kept plowing on, introducing the cast one-by-one, including Victim #1, Villain, and Innocent Suspects, all as previously outlined.
Then around 18k words a new character popped into the story, arguing with Victim #2.
Hello, who the heck are you? Where did you come from, and what’s your beef?
The character explained, told me his name, and convinced me of his need to be in the story. I decided to let him stay. What harm could he do? Someone has to do the grunt work in the story, and besides, I Am God. I can always take him out later if he doesn’t pull his weight. I assigned him a Supporting Cast role and moved on.
Now I’m 26k words in, and I still can’t persuade Innocent Suspect #3 to show his face.
C’mon out! You’re overdue for your scene!
He is still not talking to me. I suspect he doesn’t want to be in the story. Maybe he’ll show up later, but later doesn’t fit with the outline. *sigh* I will press on without him for now and see how the draft turns out. I’ve got to be flexible. I just hope I am not on the verge of a character revolt.
If only I’d known…