Not One, Not Two, But Three Writers…
Just today, when telling me for one reason or another about a project that they were working on said that they had gone in a wrong direction and had to toss out a bunch of writing. One person said almost a hundred pages.
I seldom say anything when a beginning writer or early-stage writer says that to me. But I figured I could say something here. So if I did say something when someone made that “I went in the wrong direction on my novel…” comment, here is what it would be…
First off, how do you know?
Now every writer when asked that question will swears they know. And will go on and on about their reasons they just know. (And why I never say anything. Hate listening to stupidity.) But I put it to you, they don’t know.
Remember, the critical voice’s job is to make sure you don’t finish anything, and eventually stop writing. That is the critical voice’s job and when you suddenly come to the realization that you have gone the “wrong way” in a book, that is your critical voice winning.
So how do you know that the wrong way wouldn’t turn out to be something really cool and different and maybe a little bit dangerous instead of the right way, which is dull and boring and safe and makes your critical voice happy?
The answer: You don’t.
But Dean, don’t you say you cut off extra loops? Yes, at times I do when my characters wonder off on a side road and then come back and it makes no difference to the plot.
BUT I NEVER DO IT WHILE WRITING… I finish the entire novel first because that side road might turn out to be really, really important. And often does. I just make note that at that point (on my outline I am making as I go) that it feels like I might have taken a side trip and to check when done.
But I write it anyway, don’t think about, never cut it. And often at the end of the book what I thought was a side trip turns out to be the most important thing in the story.
In other words, unlike many of you, I never let my critical voice win when it comes to writing. Especially in the middle of writing.
There is only one way to write a certain story or novel.
That false assumption is what causes so many of you to say “I went the wrong way.”
What in the hell is the wrong way? If there is no one way to write a book or story, then there is no wrong or right way, just the way you pick when you write it.
Trust me, you might be on the right road and your critical voice is fighting to stop you and a very powerful weapon is “You are on the wrong track” thought that seems to echo in your head every time you start to slow down. And that critical voice is trying to make you stop and toss out a lot of words.
Now I understand that your ability is very powerful to come up with excuses on why you are convinced you went the wrong way and just had to toss out all those words. And those reasons (excuses) will sound wonderful to your critical voice because it was that voice that made up the reasons.
But to me, when you spout those wonderful-sounding reasons or excuses, they all just sound like fear and critical voice garbage.
So maybe you should just try the path you are on with a story or novel and see where it heads instead of letting the critical voice dull it down. Because, honestly, even at over 200 novels now, I would never trust that thought and stop a novel because of it. I might back up a page or two and twist off in a different direction. But I never go the wrong way because in a novel or story, there is no wrong way.
Now I will climb off my little soapbox, kick it back under the desk, and do other stuff because I know this will make zero difference. The zen of “going the wrong way” is powerful stuff. And I know, I know, you’ve written three novels or a dozen or whatever and you know better. It’s your story and you know what is right or wrong.
Actually, your creative voice does. But you just won’t trust it.