Friday, October 16, 2009

Are You Lost?

Are you lost? Do you know where your work-in-progress is heading, what the end point is? If you don't have a good idea of where you want your story to end, how can you tell if you're headed in the right direction? It is conceivable that you could write oh, 40 or 50 pages, then have to scrap it because you have no further vision for your story.

Now, I know there are writers that are out there that sit down and write, and the story unfolds easily. My writing is not that way. I knew, vaguely, where I wanted my WIP to go, and had an even more vague end in sight. But how to get there from the beginning?

Help was on the way.

Yesterday, my husband and I sat down and talked about the story. We tossed out ideas, possible plot points, a more focused ending. I came away from our brainstorming session revitalized, and knowing more about my story and my characters. What a relief, because, I tell you, I was stuck. This brainstorming means I have to go back and change a few plot points that I've already written.

I know that some people say to brazen your way through your story, and make changes later. That doesn't work for me. This is the reason: if my plot points changes the direction of my story, and plot points pop up, then I need to make the changes in the middle for my story to head in the right direction. Think of your story as the vanishing point. In geometry (I know, you thought you'd never use it, didn't you?), if you have two points that begin at the same point, then take the first a line straight out from there, with a slight angle, then add the second point, but veer off a miniscule amount from the other line. When you follow the lines out, even though they are close at the beginning, the further out you get, the more those lines deviate.

This works the same way as your story. If you don't get the first plot points right, then your story is going to veer off, down the road, in a direction you don't want it to go. Thus, I change those first plot points to keep my story on track.

So, check yourself. Are you lost, or do your plot points take you down a road in a direction that will ultimately be far from your end goal? Don't be lost! Make those changes today.


Donna McDine said...

Hi Katie:

Terrific topic! Sounds like you have a great sounding board in your husband to brainstorm with. Great idea.

Personally interviewing my characters first gives me a good direction has to how the plot should after getting to know how they would react in a given situation.


Paige Ryter said...

Your husband sounds wonderful, if he's willing to plot with you! Can you clone him or take some of that and give it to my husband? HA!

Seriously, you're very right. I like to know at least the last scene and where I'm heading, before I write. I'm stuck on a plot right now, so this was perfect timing for me!

Thank you!

Maryannwrites said...

Aren't husbands great? :-) Mine has helped me sort through plot problems, too. Really helps to get that objective eye on a story.

Sally_Odgers said...

Good (plot) point, Katie. It's something I've been trying to get through to students and mentees for too many years! My husband and I often work out plots together. Our brains are complementary.

Tara McClendon said...

Great topic. I don't usually outline, but I do brainstorm. And my husband has the ability to ask the right questions about the right things to help me.

unwriter said...

Great husband you've got there. I'd ask mine, but unfortunately, I am the husband. However, my better half helps a lot as do a few friends when I ask. It's not hard to get lost midstream. I do try to keep a few spare paddles around though and that does help.

Anonymous said...

I'm a little jealous of your writing relationship. My mom is my sounding board & when she gets an idea in her head she pushes me to write "that story". She's not very good at melding her & my ideas together.For that reason, I don't ask her opinion until I've written the story & want a critique.

J. Aday Kennedy
The Differently-Abled Children's Author
Coming this winter Klutzy Kantor

Christopher Hoare said...

Some good points Katie, and some good comments. My wife rarely ventures any advice on my writing except typos and spelling, but then she was a professional proofreader.

I find that it's usually fine to plunge into a situation with one's characters and find out where they are going, but by the time the story is nearing the halfway point the writer had better know where it MUST end.

Doesn't always happen -- I have one novel stalled halfway. Not because I have no idea how to end it, but because I need to get deeper into my background to ensure the beginning is sowing all the right seeds.

I could trot out more examples -- we should make more of this topic, Katie.

Chris H.