When nothing turns out as planned

I’m a plotter. Let’s just throw that out there.

When I set out to write my current WIP, I had an image in my mind of what it was going to be: a YA thriller about a bad-ass, take-no-prisoners double agent deep in a world of espionage and treachery. But then I started writing it, and that’s not what it is at all. It’s softer. It’s more subtle. It focuses less on the big picture and more on the characters and their complexity. And, really, it’s a hundred times better than my original vision, which easily could have come off as a caricature study.

There would have been a time in my writing life where such an about-face would have caused me great anxiety. “No, no, NO!” I would have screamed at the page, “you go back into your little box and you stay there! You. Are. A. Thriller!!” But then I learned that often times it’s best to just let it go, to just run with it and see where it takes me (albeit with my plot outline still firmly in place). It’s not always successful, and I’ve had some “let’s just tuck that one away in a drawer, shall we?” moments, but when it works, I’m always glad I took the journey. The end product is worth it.

What about you? Have any of your books ever wound up completely different than you were planning?

(Above image from Because Studio)

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9 Responses

  1. Pam Harris says:

    Hmm, that hasn't quite happened to me yet. I'm a plotter, as well. During the revision process, some of my major plot points have been altered or completed erased–but usually my tone remains the same. Maybe I should learn to loosen the reigns. πŸ™‚

  2. J.L. Campbell says:

    I'm having a challenge kind of like that right now. The story's not changing all that much, but there are some situations that I need to revise. I realize that the changes will make the story better, but still I want to cry and moan because I thought I was on my final edit. πŸ™

  3. Liz says:

    I'm a plotter too, but frequently (ahem, yesterday, ahem) I find characters doing things I don't expect, scenes going ways I didn't intend, and things popping up from out of the blue. But it's okay. It usually makes things work better.

    I think of my outline like a battle plan–it never survives its first contact with the enemy. (Bad analogy, but you see my point, I hope.)

  4. Connie says:

    Yes, that's happened to me. A book that I wrote with absolutely no intentions of being literary fiction morphed into it without me even realizing it. And it's much better than I had imagined because of what it became.

    BTW, I love the photo.

  5. Meredith says:

    Pam: I don't think there's anything I've ever written that hasn't had some major plot point I thought was totally awesome at the turn turn out to be crap that needs deleting. Hazard of the job I guess. πŸ™‚

    J.L.: Ugh, I feel you. That's the worst. You think you're done, and then NOPE! Best of luck as you edit. May this time be the final round!

    Liz: Love the battle plan metaphor! That's an awesome way to think about it. I'm totally going to start using that when I explain my process to people. πŸ™‚

    Connie: So glad I'm not alone on this! It really is a great feeling when you wind up with something even better than you were anticipating!

  6. Stephanie says:

    Oh yes!! My debut, A Bitch Named karma, originally had a completely different title and was supposed to be silly and funny…a comedic women;s fiction story. But then I got into writing it and the heart and complexity of the characters completely took over. And while the story does have funny parts, it will also make you cry and get mad….it's dramatic and serious in parts. It's a real roller coaster of emotion and that's what I love about it. It ended up soooooooo much better than I had ever planned in the beginning…..and I didn't even have a real plan…I didn't do any kind of an outline.

    Good luck!! The great thing about writing is that we can let our minds just ramble and flow and see where it take us!

  7. Alicia Gregoire says:

    Great post!

    I haven't had the genre really change on me like you have, but I've experienced the scene going in an opposite direction and the character changing parts. I find that if I fight it, I wind up with writer's block. It's just easier to let it all out these days.

  8. Louise says:

    Hello, fellow crusader popping in. I'm a plotter of a sort. I have a basic idea and I get it out onto paper, and then when I'm redrafting it (fleshing) it tends to spread out. Sometimes – strike that – *often* I have to cut out scenes because I've strayed from my plot.

  9. Meredith says:

    Stephanie: That sounds awesome! Sounds like it all worked out just as it was meant to. πŸ™‚

    Alicia: Oh yes, I agree. Some days it's easier to throw up the white flag and just let it win. And sometimes you get something amazing out of it!

    Louise: Hiya, fellow crusader! That's happened to me before. Ok, a lot a lot. πŸ˜‰

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